Ex-headteacher from Kent who arranged to meet teen for sex through gay dating website is jailed
A perverted former headteacher from Faversham who was working with vulnerable children when he arranged to meet a 15-year-old boy for sex through a gay dating website has been jailed for a year.
James Hope, 39, was responsible for schooling youngsters in care and young care leavers when he told the teenager he wanted to ‘suck and f***’ him. He even told the boy, known as Sam, he worked for Kent County Council (KCC).
But a court heard ‘Sam’ was in fact the fake identity of a profile set up on Grindr by paedophile vigilante group, The Hunted One.
They confronted Hope at Faversham train station on the evening of September 11 last year and subsequently posted footage of their trap online.
It showed Hope being confronted and questioned about the messages he sent ‘Sam’ as he sat in front of a Biffa bin before police arrived to arrest him.
Hope was immediately suspended by KCC from his teaching role as assistant head with the Virtual School Kent team based in Swale. His 15-year career in education has also included posts in primary schools and positions of deputy head and acting head teacher.
Hope, of St Mary’s Road, Faversham, Kent, admitted attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming.
Jailing him at Maidstone Crown Court in Kent, Judge Philip Statman said Hope knew from the outset that the boy was 15.
“You indicated to him what your sexual desires were and they included acts of penetrative sex. You must understand that children must be protected, particularly when they are on websites such as Grindr.
“You knew that in arranging to meet this boy, the activity you were to engage in was an act which was unlawful and you undoubtedly acted for reasons of pursuing your own sexual gratification.”
Judge Statman added he could not impose a suspended sentence, despite Hope’s previous good character and the “profound impact” of his offending and subsequent “public hounding”.
“You were a teacher and teaching is a calling. It is an honourable profession and as a result of your offence you will never teach in all likelihood again,” he said. “You have been humiliated in public and, in what I consider to be a particularly mitigating factor, you have been hounded out of your home by reason of the coverage on the internet of your activity.”
Prosecutor Timothy Devlin told today’s hearing that none of the messages sent by The Hunted One suggested anything of a sexual nature.
However, Hope made his intentions clear. “The defendant sent him a message suggesting they meet for the purpose of sucking and f***ing and other such things,” said Mr Devlin.
Hope told police after his arrest he planned to take the boy to his home for sex.
Hope was ordered to to sign on the sex offenders’ register for 10 years and made subject to a sexual harm prevention order limiting his use of the internet for five years.
He must also undergo a sex offender treatment programme and will be barred from working with children and vulnerable adults.
Kent County Council worker busted by group The Hunted One
A council worker who helped vulnerable children in care has admitted arranging to have sex with a 15-year-old boy.
Former primary school teacher James Hope, of Preston Grove, Faversham, was caught on video waiting to meet the teenager, but was instead confronted by paedophile hunters who had set him up.
At the time, the 38-year-old was an assistant head teacher at Kent County Council’s Virtual School – a service helping educate children in care and those who had left school early.
He had previously worked as a teacher at St Mary’s primary school in Faversham.
Footage posted on Facebook in September by vigilante group The Hunted One showed the moment Hope was confronted at the town’s railway station.
In the footage – which contains language unsuitable to publish – men from the group approach Hope, asking him: “What are you doing here? Is that a photograph of you? You work with children anyway don’t you? Do you think it’s OK to come and meet a child?”
Hope replies: “He’s 16 isn’t he?”
n another video, Hope is seen being led away by police officers.
At Maidstone Magistrates’ Court on Friday, he admitted attempting to meet a boy aged under 16 for penetrative sexual activity.
He has been released on bail and will be sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court at a later date.
Kent County Council says Hope joined the Virtual School last January but was immediately suspended following his arrest eight months later.