March 2018

Sex offender snared by ‘paedophile hunter’

A man is behind bars after being snared by a group of self-proclaimed paedophile hunters.

John Robinson thought he was going to meet a 13-year-old girl called ‘Phoebe’ when he went to Sainsbury’s, on Bitterne Road.

But when he got there he was confronted by SKID’s Alex Westgarth – one of the people behind the group – who put him under a citizen’s arrest, videoed the encounter and shared it to its network of more than 20,000 online followers.

Southampton Crown Court heard that Robinson had initially joined up to an adult online dating website called ‘Mingle’.

Within a day of Mr Westgarth setting up the fake ‘Phoebe’ account, which had a profile picture of someone prosecutor Nicholas Tucker said was “clearly underage”, Robinson had sent a request to be her friend.

Mr Tucker said: “The defendant sent a message to ‘Phoebe’ which said he was single, had no children and that he was 47-years-old.

“It replied to the message saying she was actually 13 years old.”

The court heard that Robinson asked ‘Phoebe’ to send a picture of herself and after he had sent an image of himself, he asked for an image again days before Christmas.

Soon the talk became more sexual, and Robinson said the pair should meet up.

“It’s a shame you’re not 18. I could have fun with you,” Robinson said in another message.

He said he did not want to be viewed as a paedophile but “wanted to play with her”. Eventually it was arranged that they should go for some food so they agreed to meet in Bitterne.

Unaware that he was about to be the subject of SKID’s latest sting, moments before was confronted by Mr Westgarth, Robinson sent a message to ‘Phoebe’ to say he had arrived.

Mitigating, Berenice Mulvanny told the court that Robinson, originally from York but who moved to Fareham before Southampton, had struggled to cope with the unexpected death of his fiancée and first girlfriend who died in a motorcycling accident in 2016.

She said that Robinson was “a lonely man” and had mental health and learning difficulties.

Robinson, of Rossington Avenue, Bitterne, pleaded guilty to attempting to incite a child under the age of 18 into sexual activity. He was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.