Sydney shooting
Nathan Sertori was arrested at Sydney Airport before boarding a flight to the UK David Gray/Reuters

An Australian man who pleaded guilty to planning to fly to the UK to have sex with an underage girl has avoided a prison sentence. Nathan Sertori, 36, from Canberra, was found to have engaged in sexually explicit conversations with a police officer posing as a 14-year-old girl named Sandie.

He was arrested at Sydney Airport and prevented form boarding a flight to the UK following a tip-off from Interpol in June 2016.

Appearing at the ACT Supreme Court, Sertori avoided a custodial sentence and instead was placed on an intensive corrections order for two years and 10 months.

He has also been banned from using the internet during this period, reports ABC.

Justice John Burns said he was not persuaded that Sertori had any intent to molest the child during his visit to the UK.

In his sentencing remarks, Burns said his trip had been planned before sexually explicit conversations began and ended several weeks before the journey was due to take place.

Burns also said Sertori's willingness to rehabilitate helped him decide not to send him to jail.

He added: "I accept you have shown real contrition both by the way you have engaged in rehabilitation and your pleas of guilty in relation to this matter."

Sertori previously told the court his sexual liaisons with 'Sandie' were "purely fantasy" and that he never intended to carry them out.