Trainee priest jailed after paedophile hunters catch him trying to meet boy for sex in Gateshead
A trainee priest is behind bars after sending a picture of his genitals to what he thought was a 14-year-old boy, telling him he liked “sweaty teen lads” and turning up hoping to meet him for sex.
James Leigh was living with a Catholic priest in Newcastle as he trained to become a man of the cloth himself when he fell into illegal temptation online.
A court heard he made contact with a profile on Grindr which purported to be that of a 14-year-old boy but had in fact been set up by paedophile hunters.
Despite being told of the age of the fake boy, Leigh sent a message saying “Looking for young teen meet now”.
He then engaged in explicit chat, suggested sexual activity and arranged a meeting at Gateshead Leisure Centre.
The pervert then sent a picture of his penis, said he liked “sweaty teen lads” and turned up to meet the child for sex.
When he got there he was confronted by the group behind the profile, police turned up and he was arrested.
Now the 30-year-old has been jailed for 12 months at Newcastle Crown Court after admitting attempted grooming – despite a glowing reference from a bishop.
Recorder Tahir Khan, who also ordered him to sign the sex offenders register and be subject to a sexual harm prevention order for ten years, told him: “You are a man of good character and an intelligent man with achievements that have been spoken of in a testimonial I have read from the bishop.
“You were training to be a priest at the time that this offence I have to sentence you for occurred.
“You made contact with somebody who did not exist in reality and this came about because the group calling themselves Guardians of the North had created a fake profile of a 14-year-old boy, with the express intention of catching people who may be tempted to seek out sexual activity with underage boys.
“There was talk about where the meeting would take place and you were clearly keen to meet what you thought was a 14-year-old boy for the purposes of sexual activity, which, as an intelligent man, you knew would be unlawful
“The probation service propose a suspended prison sentence or community order and I’ve also read a testimonial from a bishop which speaks highly of you as a person.
“But in my judgement the offence you have pleaded guilty to is so serious only an immediate prison sentence can be justified.
“This was a serious offence in which your intention was to meet a 14-year-old boy and engage in penetrative sexual activity.”
The court heard the offence happened last May while Leigh was living with a churchman in the city.
Prosecutor Emma Dowling said: “He was residing with a Catholic priest in Newcastle and was training to become a priest.
“While living in the Newcastle area he was using the internet site Grindr, which is for people over 18 to find potential partners.”
Miss Dowling said Leigh made contact with a Guardians of the North decoy profile and knew from an early stage the ‘boy’ was 14.
“Despite that he send a picture of himself with a message saying ‘Looking for young teen meet now’.
“He said he was horny and the response was ‘I have to be honest, I’m 14 to which the defendant said ‘hehe’ or ‘haha’.
“The decoy profile told him on more than one occasion he was young and that he would get banned if anyone knew he was on the site because he was under 18.”
There followed explicit chat and, having been told the ‘boy’ had not done anything before, Leigh discussed what he might like to do when they met.
Leigh was interested in going to the ‘boy’s’ home after being told his mum was working nightshift but was informed his brother was in the house.
They discussed where to meet, Leigh saying: “Look for a quiet spot we could go”.
Gateshead Leisure Centre was suggested and Leigh, whose address was given in court as Great Broughton, Cockermouth, Cumbria, said he would come in his black Hyundai car.
Miss Dowling said: “He asked if the car park was quiet and if there were cameras there.
“Clearly he looked at the location because he then said ‘It’s too well lit and too risky to meet there’.”
He then sent a picture of his penis and asked if the ‘boy’ had any of his own to send. He said no.
Miss Dowling said: “He said he liked sweaty teen lads.”
He arrived at Gateshead Leisure Centre and was confronted and then arrested.