July 2013

Former café owner John Sterckx targeted girl, 13


A FORMER café owner cried in the dock as he was jailed for sexually exploiting a vulnerable 13-year-old girl online.

John Paul Sebastian Sterckx had a “voyeuristic” interest in the girl from York who had been abused by other men, said Paul Cleasby, prosecuting.

He got the child to send him indecent photographs of herself and encouraged her to describe her previous sexual encounters over the internet.

Over four months they exchanged 1,780 text messages most of which were highly sexual and talked about having sex with her even though he knew her age, that she went to school and lived with her parents, said Mr Cleasby.

Police found 52 pictures of the girl on his phone, six of which experts classed as sexually very explicit.

There was a 24-year age difference between them and they never met. He lived in Wales and she in York.

The Recorder of York, Judge Stephen Ashurst, told Sterckx: “It must have been apparent to you that the child you were speaking to on line was a damaged child. She was vulnerable to being exploited.”

Sterckx, 37, of Rhoose, Barry, pleaded guilty to three charges of inciting or engaging a child to engage in sexual activity and seven of possessing indecent pictures of a child.

He was jailed for 15 months, put on the sex offenders’ register for ten years and made subject to a ten-year sexual offences prevention order restricting his use of the internet.

His barrister David Dixon told York Crown Court he was a family man who had had a “catastrophic lack of judgement.” He had met the girl through an adult dating website where she had initially described herself as 18, but accepted he knew her real age.

He had “hidden” online from stresses and financial pressures caused by the collapse of his cafe business which had left him more than £100,000 in debt including large amounts to his father-in-law and other relatives.

For two periods of four weeks when his personal stresses eased he had not sent the girl any messages, the court heard, and Sterckx accepted he needed help.