June 2016

Man who used dating website to groom North Devon teenagers avoids jail

A Craigslist user has been sent on a sex offenders’ course after trying to meet an under age Barnstaple girl for sex.

Carpenter Stephen White posted a notice on the ‘casual encounters’ section of the dating website which asked ‘Any young teens near Torrington M4MW’.

The last part is code which showed it was a man seeking a man and a woman, and White started e-mail exchanges with a 14-year-old girl in Barnstaple and a 16-year-old boy from Bideford.

He discussed meeting with the girl in an exchange of messages which started late on Christmas Eve, 2014 and continued into April 2015.

No real meeting took place and White later told police he thought the whole thing was a spoof and that the girl was an adult transvestite who was sending messages to wind him up.

The messages were found on White’s computer after his home was raided because he had downloaded images of child rape from a peer to peer website.

White, 43, of Victoria Road, Barnstaple, admitted attempting to meet a girl under 16 with the intention of taking part in sexual activity and three counts of making indecent images of children.

He was jailed for 15 months, suspended for two years, ordered to attend a sex offenders’ treatment programme, pay costs, and sign on the sex offenders’ register for ten years by Judge Graham Cottle at Exeter Crown Court.

The Judge also imposed an indefinite sexual harm prevention order which restricts White’s access to children and allows the police to monitor his internet use.

He told him: “You were clearly interested in meeting an under age girl for sex, and that is a serious offence. In fact, you either stopped or were stopped before any damage was done.

“Your activities clearly disclose a sexual interest in children and until you fully acknowledge that, the way forward is going to be difficult.”

Janice Eagles, for the prosecution, said White was living with his parents in School Lane, Torrington in April 2015 when police executed a warrant and arrested him when he returned during the search.

He told them he accessed adult pornography and used peer to peer sites to download music but admitted he had been sent some ‘dodgy looking’ files which he had deleted.

An examination showed a total of 13 still images including four at the worst category A, including one depicting the rape of a girl aged eight to 12.

There were also advertisements he posted on the casual encounters section of Craigslist.

One said: “Any young teens near Torrington M4MW”

A second said: “Any young boys or girls fancy meeting up M4MW.”

Miss Eagles said e-mail conversations were found on a laptop and phone including one with a person who said they a 14-year-old called Amy living in Barnstaple and another with a 16-year-old called Edward in Bideford.

The conversation with Amy started late on Christmas Eve, 2014 and within hours she told him she wanted to meet for sex and ‘really liked sleeping with older guys’.

White suggested in e-mails to Edward he was interested in a threesome and asked ‘do you know any young girls or young boys’.