September 2013

Paedophile caught by ‘Letzgo Hunting’ internet child protection team is jailed after posing as schoolboy to groom girl on Facebook

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A paedophile who was caught by a child protection team after grooming a 15-year-old girl on Facebook has been jailed for eight years.

James Stone, 24, posed as a schoolboy on the social networking site and made the teenager send naked photographs of herself before luring her into meeting him in Nottingham in March.

He then took her back to his flat and made her perform sexual acts on him.

Stone was caught after the girl’s mother became suspicious and contacted online activists Letzgo Hunting who set up fake Facebook profiles to snare him.

Describing the case as a ‘campaign of grooming’ Judge Joan Butler QC said: ‘We have to protect young boys and indeed girls, from their own foolishness.

‘I accept you didn’t force her and you didn’t use any violence but that wasn’t necessary because you had groomed her so well.’

Nottingham Crown Court heard that the girl originally thought Stone was a 16-year-old boy but knew he was 20 by the time they met up.

The girl’s mother became suspicious when she came home the evening that the pair met and had a ‘longer shower than normal’.

After the youngster told her what had happened, the concerned mother then contacted Letzgo Hunting.

The group pretended to be two 15 and 14-year-old girls to get Stone to talk to them and reveal he’d had sex with his victim.

Stone was then filmed being confronted by the group as he was chased down the street in an organised sting in April.

The mother contacted police, who arrested Stone and seized his mobile phone – which they later discovered contained indecent images of his victim.

Prosecution lawyer Tina Dempster told the court that Stone had asked the girl for sexual photos of herself.

She said: ‘They sat and watched films on his bed before he forced her to perform sexual acts on him.

‘The girl said she was scared and too frightened to say too much.’

In interviews the teenager told police: ‘He hadn’t respected me or anything, I felt numb. I didn’t know what to do. I was frightened. I just wanted my mum at the time.’

Defending Stone, Adrian Langdale, said he was a hard-working man who had been a manager of various pubs in the Nottingham area.

He added: ‘Friends and family described him as extremely personable, sociable and helpful.

‘He has been in a number of relationships, all age appropriate.’

Stone, from Nottingham, previously admitted one count of grooming, two counts of sexual activity with a child, taking an indecent image, possessing indecent images, possession of an indecent image with a view to distribution and possession of extreme pornography.

He was jailed for a total of eight years, given a sexual offenders’ prevention order and told he would be on the sex offenders’ register for life.

Nottinghamshire Police said that none of the footage obtained by Letzgo Hunting was used during their investigation and warned against anyone taking the law into their own hands.

Detective Inspector Martin Hillier said: ‘James Stone not only preyed upon his young victim under the guise of a schoolboy, he did it in the family home and during school time, under the noses of the adults in her life, because James Stone was hiding in her mobile phone.

 

‘He groomed and manipulated her into doing things she would never do, before luring her to his home and taking advantage of her in the very worst way.

‘I cannot stress enough how important it is to report offences to the police, and to do this as soon as possible.’

‘Paedophile hunters’ Letgzo Hunting – who track down suspected sex offenders on the internet – announced it was closing down last night.

The online group, whose members are based in Hinckley, Leicestershire, announced it was folding on its Facebook page.

In a statement, the group said: ‘Letzgo Hunting is done with.

‘We always did what we could with the best intentions of children in mind, and sometimes we may have been a little over passionate, but this is because we believe children should be protected.

‘But now its over to you guys, we have shown you how easily these people groom children online, it’s your turn to protect them now.’

The group attracted controversy for its tactics after it was linked with the suicide of a Leicestershire man it had accused of attempting to groom a child.

Gary Cleary was found hanged at his Leicestershire home on May 13 – four days after he was arrested by police.

The Letzgo Hunting group claims it gathered evidence Mr Cleary was a paedophile after contacting him online and posing as a 14-year-old girl.

But police said the 29-year-old had not been charged with any offences.

The Leicestershire force would not say what crime Mr Cleary had been arrested on suspicion of, but confirmed he had been interviewed by officers and released on bail.