December 2018

Paedophile spent two months chatting with ‘underage girl’ who turned out to be a 62-year-old man

A paedophile who spent months engaging in “filthy and sordid” online conversations with what he thought was a young girl was in fact talking to a 62-year-old man, a court has heard.

Stephen Gibbs of Neath also had dozens of images of child abuse on his mobile phone – some featuring children as young as three or four.

Swansea Crown Court heard it was not known why the man exchanging messages with Gibbs was doing it.

There was no evidence he was a so-called “paedophile hunter” and may have been playing the role of a young teenage girl for his own sexual gratification.

Dyfed Thomas, prosecuting, said police were alerted to Gibbs’ activities following an arrest of a suspect in Greater Manchester.

When that person’s computer equipment was searched the trail led to the 60-year-old’s home in Neath.

In the early hours of March 27 this year police went to Gibbs’ address in Rope Walk in the town centre armed with a warrant.

The court heard Gibbs’ reply to being cautioned was to say to officers: “I know what this is about. I know there are indecent images on my phone. I haven’t touched anyone.”

In the bedroom of the property police found a Samsung phone and when it was examined it was found to contain 46 pictures and films, including 13 classed as Category A – the most extreme kind of abuse.

Officers also found he had sent 27 images to other people, including Category A images, and some of the children in these images were estimated to be as young as three or four.

The phone also had a number of extreme pornographic images featuring adults and animals.

Mr Thomas said the investigators also uncovered two months of conversations between Gibbs and someone who appeared to be a 14-year-old girl.

In fact it was a 62-year-old man called Paul Thomas living in England and pretending to be a teenage girl.

The barrister said it was “not clear what the motives were” of the person Gibbs was chatting with but the two had engaged in a “lurid series of exchanges” during which the Neath man made “sordid suggestions” involving sex acts, animals, and incest.

In his subsequent interview Gibbs said he had been “lonely and drunk” when he had come across a TV channel called Proud TV which allowed him to send texts to people.

He maintained he was not interested in children himself but had been talking to people who were.

Gibbs pleaded guilty to four counts of making indecent images, three counts of distributing indecent images, possessing extreme pornography, and attempting to incite a child to commit sexual acts.

Judge Geraint Walters told the defendant it was clear from the probation report he had read that he was in denial about his offending.

He said: “These images of children are of real children. They are not actors – they are young children being gravely abused. Each time someone like you views an image they are being abused again.

“The reality is you are not being honest with yourself – people who commit these offences obtain sexual gratification. These actions are so abhorrent to right-minded people there must be a reason why you are doing it – and you are not being honest with yourself.

“You have demonstrated you have a sexual interest in viewing images of children being abused but you have gone a step further and distributed them, spreading this filth so others might have access to it.”

In regard to the two-month conversation Gibbs had engaged in, the judge said it seemed likely he had been communicating with “another sexual deviant” who derived “some sort of pleasure from pretending to be a 14-year-old girl”.

Gibbs was jailed for a total of 24 months.

He was also put on the sex offenders’ register for 10 years and was made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order for the same length of time to control his access to the internet.