January 2018

Royal Navy College Steward caught in ‘paedo hunter’ sting is jailed

A former steward at Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth has been jailed after he was caught in sting by paedophile hunters.

Michael Watton, 56, thought he was meeting a 14-year-old girl for sex at Paignton train station, but was instead confronted by a group of men with a video camera.

They asked him about messages he had exchanged with several children – who were in fact fake profiles – and he admitted arranging to take the girl for a Chinese meal and booking them into a bed and breakfast for sex

The defendant, who lives in Dartmouth, admitted three offences relating to his online activities and was jailed for 16 months by the judge at Exeter Crown Court.

 Judge Erik Salomonsen said the number of fake children he contacted meant he should be sent straight to jail.

The offences took place in October last year.

Prosecutor Julia Cox said the three charges related to chats the defendant had with ‘Katy’ ‘Jess’ and ‘Ellie-May’.

Katy had been set up as a decoy by the group Dark Justice.

Watton soon struck up a conversation on the dating site Qeep asking if she was single and how old she was, said the prosecutor.

He told the 14-year-old that he would love to have sex with her and get her pregnant. He then talked about meeting her in Newcastle but did not attend.

Jess, 10, was also a decoy. Watton again asked how old the girl was and whether she’d ever had sex.

Ellie-May, 14, was a decoy set up by Internet Interceptors.

Ms Cox told the court that Watton quickly moved the conversation on to sex, asking if she was a virgin and arranging to meet at Paignton Railway Station on October 21.

“He was met by individuals from paedophile hunter groups,” she said. “They spoke to him and recorded what was going on.”

Watton accepted he was there to meet a 14-year-old. He said he planned to take her to the cinema, buy her a Chinese then use a B&B for sex.

She said Watton was a bearded 50-year-old man and his profile picture made this clear.

“Without being rude to Mr Watton in the real world no young child would engage with him,” she said. “He didn’t pose as a young attractive person.”

She said he found ‘to his astonishment there were apparently young girls out there wanting to engage with him’.

“In the real world matters wouldn’t have progressed as they did. He is a lonely man living with his mother.”

Judge Salomonsen said he appreciated the point made by Ms McCarthy but the number of girls Watton tried to speak to made the offences more serious.

“You embarked on these exchanges with not one but 10 in all. Given that fact it seems to me this sentence must be served in prison.”

The defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted sexual communication with a child and one of attempting to meet a child for sex following online grooming.

He asked for seven further offences to be taken into consideration.

Watton, of Church Road, Dartmouth, was also made the subject of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order.


December 2017

Paedophile pleads guilty

A steward at the Britannia Royal Naval College has admitted trying to meet a 14-year-old girl for sex after being trapped by an online child protection team

Michael Watton groomed what he thought were three girls aged 10 to 14 in internet chat rooms but in reality he was talking to adults from the team based in Devon

He sent messages to a fictitious 14-year-old girl called Ellie May and arranged to meet her at Paignton railway station in October.

Instead of finding a young girl waiting for him, he was greeted by members of the Internet Interceptors & UK database group who detained him until police arrived to arrest him.

They filmed their operation and a 45-minute video

Watton, 56, of Church Road, Dartmouth, admitted attempting to meet a child after grooming with the intention of committing a sexual offence.

The allegation relates to the incident at Paignton on October 21 this year in which he arranged to meet Ellie May, with whom he believed he had been exchanging sexual messages online.

He admitted two counts of attempted sexual communication with a child and asked for seven similar cases to be taken into consideration.

Judge Geoffrey Mercer, QC, adjourned the case until January 4, for a probation report and remanded Watton in custody.

Watton works as a steward at the BRNC in Dartmouth, which numbers the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, and Prince Andrew among its alumni.

Internet Interceptors are a nationwide group which works with the Plymouth-based men who detained Watton at the railway station.

Their members pose as under age girls in chat rooms to expose adult groomers.