September 2019

Student thanked paedophile hunters for catching him and said: ‘My mother is going to kill me’

A student thanked a gang of vigilantes for catching him trying to meet what he thought was a child and told them: “My mother is going to kill me”.

Alexander Stafford thought he had been chatting to a 15-year-old boy called Richard on dating site Grindr but it was a fake profile set up by a group of paedophile hunters.

The 22-year-old Sunderland University student arranged to meet the “boy” within three hours of communicating with him, Newcastle Crown Court.

When he turned up at a Tesco store, he was confronted by the vigilantes and police turned up to arrest him.

Stafford was arrested and confessed to police he “wasn’t sure” if he posed a risk to real children.

Prosecutor Paul Cleasby told the court he offered thanks to the group for preventing him from committing a serious sexual offence and in a video of the confrontation, he said his mum would kill him.

Stafford, who immediately sought professional help to address his problems, pleaded guilty to attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming.

Judge Amanda Rippon adjourned sentence in April to allow Stafford, formerly of of Portobello Lane, Sunderland, the opportunity to set up a private treatment programme with a psychiatrist in Cyprus, where he now lives with his family.

The court heard in the five months that followed, Stafford has attended a programme and regular sessions with the specialist, who produced a “very encouraging report” for the judge.

He was sentenced to nine months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with 10-year sex offender registration in the UK.

The judge told him: “You should not underestimate how serious it is to make contact with what you think is a 15-year-old boy and arrange to meet him for sexual activity.

“It will not be tolerated in this country or in these courts.

“Untold damage is done to children that engage in sexual activity in life too soon and in abusive ways, as seen by me every day.”

The judge said the offending was “extremely serious” but added: “You are still very young.

“You came to this country to study and I entirely accept you were very vulnerable, fragile and alone and didn’t adapt very well and that is why this offending occurred.”

Judge Rippon said Stafford was “very close” to going to prison but praised his behaviour since he was caught and added: “You thanked the organisation in police interview for stopping you from committing a criminal offence.”

The court heard Stafford had started chatting with “Richard” on a Sunday morning last September.

Mr Cleasby added: “The meeting was arranged for within three hours of the initial contact.

“The attempt to commit a sexual offence was within three hours of the first conversation with someone he believed to be a child.”

April 2019

Sunderland student thanks paedophile hunters for catching him in undercover operation

A student who was snared in a sting by paedophile hunters has thanked the group for stopping him from committing an offence on a child.

Alexander Stafford thought he had been chatting to a 15-year-old boy over dating site Grindr but had been duped by Guardians of the North, who had set up the fake profile.

Newcastle Crown Court heard within three hours of the conversation starting, the 22-year-old, who was studying at Sunderland University, had arranged to meet the youth for sexual activity.

But when Stafford turned up at his local Tesco to meet the boy, he was confronted by Guardians of the North, who had alerted the police

Stafford, of Portobello Lane, Sunderland, was arrested and confessed to police he “wasn’t sure” if he posed a risk to real children.

Prosecutor Paul Cleasby told the court: “He went on to offer thanks to Guardians of the North for preventing him from committing a serious sexual offence.”

Stafford, who had had already sought professional help to address his problems, pleaded guilty to attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming.

The court heard Stafford had started chatting with who he thought was “Richard”, who he was told was 15, on a Sunday morning last September.

Mr Cleasby added: “The meeting was arranged for within three hours of the initial contact. “The attempt to commit a sexual offence was within three hours of the first conversation with someone he believed to be a child.”

The court heard Stafford, who has never been in trouble before, is now due to go back to Cyprus, where he lives with his mum.

Judge Amanda Rippon deferred sentence for five months, to give Stafford a chance to find a psychiatrist who could set up a treatment plan abroad, as part of a sentence imposed in the Uk.

Judge Rippon said Stafford must sign the sex offenders register before he leaves the country. Appeal to find £1,800 bike stolen from outside manufacturing plant

The judge added: “I am doing the best I can for the wider public in the first instance, to try to ensure the risk that you pose is diminished.”

Judge Rippon told Stafford: “I think the risk you pose will be managed better if you can go home and into the support of your family. “But please understand, I will not hesitate to lock you up, if I think that is the only course available to me.”