August 2019

Runcorn man caught by paedophile hunter group

A man who was caught by a paedophile hunter group will serve three years behind bars for attempting to engage a 12-year-old girl in sexual activity.

John Whitfield, 32, sent sexually explicit messages to who he believed was a young girl on Facebook, between May 4 and 13.

The ‘girl’s’ profile had been set up by the Net Justice Group to catch paedophiles and was being operated by an adult member of the group.

In a hearing at Chester Crown Court on Tuesday, prosecutor Bernard Byrne, said Whitfield had asked the girl how old she was and continued to message her almost daily even after she stated she was 12.

The court heard how the messages became more explicit with him sending photographs and videos of his penis and asking for sexual photographs of her.

Whitfield, of Lingfield Road, Runcorn, admitted that he had added the young girl as a friend on Facebook but said he was drunk when he did so.

During the hearing, the court was told how Whitfield had entered a guilty plea and felt ashamed at his behaviour.

He has no previous convictions for like offences.

Whitfield has now realised he needs to address his alcohol issues and is currently getting help from Pathways.

Judge Simon Berkson, sentencing Whitfield, made him subject to a sexual harm prevention order.

He added: “These terms are to protect the public from serious sexual harm.”

Judge Berkson continued: “You thought she was a real life 12-year-old girl.

“These disgusting events were uncovered when the evidence was obtained after you were arrested.

“I have read a pre-sentence report in this case which shows real problems in your life.

“I take account of the mitigating factors but in my judgement this offence is so serious that only immediate custody is justified.”