A paedophile snared by Dark Justice when he arrived at a bus station to meet a ’13-year-old girl’ has been spared jail.
Steven McCarthy, 46, thought he was speaking to a teenage girl when he sent messages asking if the supposed child wanted to have sex with him.
But when he arrived at the bus station in Alnwick, Northumberland, he discovered he had been talking to Newcastle-based group Dark Justice.
McCarthy pleaded guilty to attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming at Newcastle Crown Court and was given an eight month jail sentence, suspended for two years.
Lee Fish, prosecuting, told the court: “This is a case which is referred to as a Dark Justice case, an organisation which is set up to expose those who seek to befriend young people online for sexual purposes.
“A false Facebook profile for a fictional 13-year-old was created,” he continued.
“In July this year the defendant made a friend request to her which was accepted and over the following weeks his messages became more persistent.”
During a conversation in August, McCarthy referred to the fictional girl as “babe” and when she asked what he wanted, he said “sex if you want”.
Mr Fish said: “What happened is she said ‘Does my age not put you off, being 13?’. His response was ‘Not at all babe’.
“It couldn’t be clearer he knew he was speaking to someone he thought was 13.”
There were then further conversations and McCarthy asked her to meet him for a drink.
Mr Fish said: “He provided her with instructions as to how to get to Alnwick.
“Before the meeting there was a further discussion where she asked ‘Will you want to do kissing and stuff?” and he replied ‘If you want’.”
The fictional girl then asked: “Me being 13 not put you off?”, to which McCarthy said: “No.”
A meeting was arranged at Alnwick bus station on August 13, where McCarthy was confronted by Dark Justice and found to be in possession of cans of lager.
Mr Fish said: “When he was confronted about the alcohol he said it was for him and he was only planning on meeting her.
“When arrested he made this statement: ‘Nothing was going to happen, I told her she could sleep in my bed and I would sleep on the sofa.
“He disputed having any sexual intention towards her.
“There were some images exchanged between them, however those images were fully clothed.”
Judge Robert Adams told McCarthy: “Of course there was no child, but you believed at the time you were communicating with a 13-year-old.
“It was made very clear to you the person you thought you were communicating with was 13.
“You were even asked whether the age of the person put you off and you said ‘not at all’.”
Judge Adams added that “it is not known what would have happened” if there had been an actual girl at the meeting.
McCarthy, of Upper Howick Street, Alnwick, must also sign the Sex Offenders Register and abide by the terms of a sexual harm prevention order for 10 years.
Judge Adams said the intensive requirements of the orders, aimed at dealing with his “warped” desires, would better serve the public than a prison sentence.