A man who believed he was grooming a child for sex was actually caught in a paedophile hunting sting
Craig Gilbert thought he was chatting to a teenager called ‘Alana’ on WhatsApp but he had actually been talking to a member of Justice for Kids, posing as a child.
The 28-year-old then arranged to meet ‘Alana’ in the car park of Asda in Stanley, County Durham, where Gilbert was greeted by members of Geordie Chasers – another paedophile hunter group, who had been tipped off by the Leeds-based organisation.
Gilbert initially denied chatting to the girl when he was confronted on camera by the group, with the footage showing him being cuffed and led away by police.
He later pleaded guilty to attempting to incite a child under the age of 16 to engage in sexual activity and attempting to meet a child following grooming.
Durham Crown Court heard Gilbert’s first question to the girl was ‘what age are you?’ and after learning she was 14, they continued to communicate.
Ian West, prosecuting, said the chat quickly became sexual, with Gilbert sending a photo of his penis.
Gilbert, from Stanley, County Durham, was given a 12 month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and will have to take part in the Horizon sex offender programme.
He will also have a three-month curfew between 6pm and 6am every day and will be subject to a sexual harm prevention order.
Judge Jonathan Carroll said: ‘Though this was not a real child, there are many real children out there and they need protection from this kind of interest in them.
‘You are a real risk of causing harm.’
But he added: ‘There has to be a balance between the punishment you richly deserve and society’s interest in reducing the risk you pose.
‘Someone of 28 who has demonstrated a willingness to engage is entitled to at least one chance to put things right.
‘That is not offered to you in your interest but in society’s interest.’