A man who was expecting to meet a 13-year-old girl he had groomed online had a nasty shock when he discovered she was a creation of paedophile hunters.
Kevin Stevens was sentenced to 26 weeks imprisonment by Sheffield magistrates on Monday after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing of trying to arrange sexual activity with a child.
He was also put on the Sex Offenders’ Register for seven years, given a Sexual Offences Prevention Order until further notice and ordered to pay a £115 victim surcharge.
The 58-year-old, who had arranged to meet a girl called Lizzie at Asda in Dalton in September 2015, was confronted by two adults who had been posing as a teenager online.
Prosecutor Mr John Kavanagh told the court that Stevens had joined a Facebook site which he believed was used by paedophiles to entice young girls.
He began communicating with Lizzie in August 2015, thinking she was 13 years old.
Mr Kavanagh said: “He was quite careful at first. Mr Stevens communicated on a daily basis.”
Lizzie told him her age so, according to Mr Kavanagh: “There was no doubt he was aware what he was dealing with.”
But soon Stevens asked Lizzie to meet him, telling her they would go for a drive “then we will see after that”.
When confronted in the Asda car park, Mr Kavanagh said, Stevens insisted: “I have never done this before”.
Asked by them if he had ever spoken to young girls before, added Mr Kavanagh, Stevens admitted he had, saying he got on better “with young girls”.
Police seized Stevens’ computers but found he had deleted communications with “Lizzie”, and found no indecent images or evidence that he had been in contact with any children.
Mr Mike Jones, mitigating, said that Stevens, of Aysgarth Avenue, Halifax, had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity to the single charge of attempting to arrange or facilitate an act which would involve the commission of an offence under Section 9 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, namely sexual activity with a child.
Mr Jones said that while the age difference between Stevens and Lizzie was a significant factor, there had been no hostility, drugs, alcohol, threats or grooming involved.
He said: “There is nothing to suggest there was significant planning.”
Mr Jones also criticised the police and Crown Prosecution Service for allowing Stevens to have the proceedings “hanging over his head” for so long before the case came to court.
But the magistrates were not impressed that he had disposed of information on his computer and said that there was grooming of the victim, adding that the age difference was a major factor, as well as Stevens’ lack of remorse.
They told Stevens that he would serve 13 weeks in prison before being released on licence.