April 2011

Facebook fiend sent to jail for grooming teen

A 28-year-old man wept in the dock as he was jailed for grooming a 13-year-old girl on Facebook. After chatting her up online, Philip Dowty drove 77 miles from his Bedfordshire home to meet the infatuated girl, who lives in South Woodham Ferrers.

He took her to a playground near her house, and was accused of groping her while her friends ran to alert their parents.

After a legal row between defence and prosecution, the charge of sexual touching was ordered to lie on the file, but Dowty pleaded guilty to sexual grooming and two counts of making an indecent image of a child.

When police raided his home, they found 1,275 pornographic pictures of young girls on his computer.

He was jailed for 22 months and placed on the sex offenders’ register and under a sexual offences prevention order for ten years.

At Chelmsford Crown Court last Wednesday, Recorder Philip Clegg told Dowty: “I think you represent a serious risk to young girls.

“If I had been able to pass an extended sentence on you I would have done so.

“You drove all the way from Sandy to South Woodham Ferrers to meet the girl – a considerable degree of determination on your part.”

In 2007, Dowty was cautioned for following a pair of 14-year-old girls around Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, and trying to lure them into his car.

He was arrested for grooming the South Woodham Ferrers girl in July 2008.

Andrew Jackson, prosecuting, said Dowty was 26 at the time and made contact with the girl on Facebook, MSN and Netlog.

He continued: “She made clear she was 13. They began to correspond across the internet sites and she developed an infatuation for him which led him to travel from Sandy to her home in South Woodham Ferrers.

“Messages from him had involved him being sexually aroused from conversations he had with her.”

When Dowty arrived he was seen outside the victim’s house.

She and her two friends, aged 13 and 11, went with him to a playground, but when the friends grew suspicious they went to get their father.

Dowty panicked and disappeared before the rescue party arrived, but he was traced through his e-mail address.

He told police he thought the girl was 16 but realised she was only 13 when he met her and wanted to “let her down gently”.

Chloe Barton, mitigating, said: “When he saw how young she was he understood it was a very bad idea. He still lives at the family home but has been banned from the computer at home.”

Dowty was apparently in a relationship with a 25-year-old woman, who knew nothing of the case.