A PERVERT from Leamington was trapped by a vigilante group after contacting someone he thought was a 13-year-old girl online and asking her to send him indecent pictures of herself.
And a judge told John Shepherd although she did not condone the group’s activity, ‘the fact remains you were involved in a conversation with someone you believed was a girl of 13.’
The 52-year-old, of Buckley Road, had pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to attempting to incite a child to engage in sexual activity.
Despite an argument for it to be suspended because he was the sole carer for his disabled partner, he was jailed for nine months and ordered to register as a sex offender for ten years.
Prosecutor Robert Underwood said Shane Brannigan was part of a group who trawled the internet looking for people who might have an interest in children – and placed a fake profile of a girl called Alice on a chat site.
It was not long before Shepherd made contact with the person he thought was 13-year-old Alice, but was in fact an adult female member of the group acting as a ‘decoy.’
He took part in conversations of a sexual nature with her and sent her a picture of himself before asking her to send him indecent pictures of herself.
Then in December 2016 Brannigan and another member of the group turned up at Shepherd’s home where they confronted him before calling the police, who arrested him, added Mr Underwood.
Jonathan Coode, defending, said Shepherd was adamant he was messing around on the internet, and although he accepted he thought it was a 13- or 14-year-old girl, there was no intention to meet.
Mr Coode pointed out Shepherd, who himself suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, was the sole carer for his ‘extremely disabled’ partner, doing everything for her, including preparing all her meals and drinks.
“He has been threatened in the street, and someone ran him down on his bicycle, and he was badly injured and his bicycle destroyed,” added Mr Coode, urging the judge to pass a suspended sentence.
But jailing Shepherd, Recorder Anupama Thompson told him it was “an extremely serious offence” and only an immediate prison sentence was appropriate.
“You were arrested following a campaign by a vigilante group who term themselves paedophile hunters.
“You were confronted by this group at your address, and it was live-streamed on Facebook.
“I do not condone that activity, but the fact remains you were involved in a conversation with someone you believed was a girl of 13 years of age.”