A convicted sex offender has breached the terms of his sentence by fleeing to The Philippines to meet a woman he met on the internet.
In March 2015 Mark Wyatt, 42, was handed a 15-month prison sentence, suspended for 24 months, after he was caught in a sting operation while attempting to meet a 15-year-old girl he had groomed over the internet.
Wyatt, then of Higher Tower Road, Newquay, had believed he was meeting teenager “Holly Stephens” at a hotel on January 19, 2015, but was instead confronted by an undercover police officer.
Wyatt had contacted a online profile he believed was a child. He arranged to meet the girl who said she was underage, but on his way to meet her at a Premier Inn hotel, he was arrested by police
Wyatt appeared at Truro Crown Court to be sentenced for failing to comply with a sex offender programme and failing to attend appointments with the Probation Service.
Newquay man caught grooming schoolgirl online escapes jail sentence
A 39-year-old Newquay man who was caught in a sting operation while attempting to meet a 15-year-old girl he had groomed over the internet has been spared a jail sentence.
Mark Wyatt, of Higher Tower Road, Newquay, had believed he was meeting teenager “Holly Stephens” at a hotel on January 19, 2015, but was instead confronted by an undercover police officer.
Wyatt contacted a fake profile set up by the police and arranged to meet a girl he knew was under age, Truro Crown Court heard on Friday: but on his way to meet her at a Premier Inn hotel miles away from his home, he was arrested by officers.
He was later charged with attempting to meet a child after sexual grooming.
Wyatt admitted the offence and was jailed for 15 months, suspended for two years.
He was also put on the Sex Offenders’ Register, given a two-year supervision order, and ordered to complete the Thames Valley Sex Offender Programme.
Elaine Hobson, for the prosecution, said Wyatt, who has a previous conviction for a historic sexual offence, contacted “Holly” on Facebook and continued to do so after being told she was only 15.
He claimed to be 27, telling her: “Age is just a number.”
The court heard Wyatt exchanged a number of messages with Holly in which he made explicit sexual references, sent intimate photographs of himself, offered her gifts and arranged to meet.
Wyatt told Holly he dreamed about kissing and undressing her and wanted to teach her about sex, called her his “wifey” and talked about marriage.
Defence barrister Michael Gregson said: “Mr Wyatt has fallen for a sting operation and he has accepted that and pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.
“There was no real person here; it was an attempt, and there was an absence of harm that could have followed for this offence.”
However, in passing sentence Judge Simon Carr said Wyatt presented “a risk to children for the rest of his life,” telling him: “you were targeted in a very professional police undercover operation and you started a conversation with a girl who made it perfectly clear that she was only 15.
“You lied about your age and said you were 27, when you are in fact 39, and sexually groomed the girl.
“It was extremely complex grooming over a long period of time, which resulted in you driving a very considerable distance to meet her.
“You are not to have unsupervised contact with any child under 16, and you are not to use any device capable of connecting to the internet unless your browsing history can be displayed.”
Detective Superintendent Jim Colwell, who was involved in the covert operation, said: “When we receive intelligence or evidence that leads us to suspect there are individuals engaged in this kind of activity there are a number of tactics at our disposal, [from] analysis of Facebook and other online social media to what we’ve seen in this case, which was a slightly more involved tactic to allow the offender to provide us with additional evidence of his unlawful intent.
“We respond to specific information that comes in to us. We don’t go on fishing trips, targeting innocent people on social media; we have to rely on specific intelligence that comes to us.”
Detective Superintendent Colwell said he was satisfied with the outcome of the sting operation.
“It really is satisfying,” he said. “Quite often it doesn’t come to fruition and we come away thinking, ‘Have we missed an opportunity there?’ There’s an awful lot of effort and planning that goes into them, so results like this are particularly satisfying.
“It really sends out a strong message to those individuals intent on using the internet and social media for criminal purposes that the likelihood is they may not be engaging with a victim [but] with a police officer, and will eventually find themselves in court and possibly facing a conviction.”