Pervert handed suspended sentence
Partly because of a delay caused by the Covid-19 lockdown since his conviction, and the effect it has had in prisons, Paul Appleton was instead given a suspended prison sentence.
Appleton (47) of Willowford Close, Long Lawford, near Rugby, had denied attempting to incite a child under the age of 13 to engage in sexual activity.
He claimed he believed he was involved in ‘role-playing’ with an adult, but a jury found him guilty by a unanimous verdict following a trial in March.
In fact the person at the other end of the exchange WAS an adult – an under-cover police officer, the jury had heard.
Following an adjournment for a report to be prepared on Appleton, his sentencing was delayed because of the lockdown.
And when he was finally able to return to the court, he was sentenced to two years in prison suspended for two years, and ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work and to take part in a rehabilitation activity.
Appleton, who will have to register as a sex offender for ten years, was also made subject to an 8pm-8am curfew for a month and ordered to pay £800 costs.
Prosecutor Stefan Kolodynski had said: “He’s charged with attempting to incite a girl under the age of 13 to engage in sexual activity.”
Using the name PaulUK47, Appleton began a conversation on the afternoon of October 3 with someone called Maya18 on an 18+ sex chat site.
“What he did not know was that in fact there was a police operation, Project Atari, where specially-trained officers accessed such sites in order to smoke out people with sexual interests in children.”
And in fact Appleton was communicating with a specialist officer who made it clear Maya was a young girl aged 12.
In a further chat he suggested that she could come to Rugby, and they discuss where they could meet – and the covert officer then traced Appleton to his home where he was arrested.
In court Appleton said he believed he was communicating with an adult woman, and that the references to her being 12 were just part of a role-playing fantasy initiated by her, which Judge Anthony Potter described as ‘a ludicrous defence.’
At the resumed hearing Clare Evans, defending, said: “Mr Appleton is a man who is facing up to what he did. This is a man who has lost pretty much everything although, I am glad to say, not his wife, and he has the support of his family.”
She said it had been ‘opportunistic offending’ after he had accessed an adult-only site, but Judge Potter commented: “This was a pretty sustained attempt to engage in sexual activity with someone he believed to be a 12-year-old.”
Arguing for a suspended sentence, Miss Evans added that Appleton was someone who could change, and he had been seeing a counsellor since his conviction.
Sentencing Appleton, Judge Potter told him: “This was in no sense a couple of isolated texts. There was a persistence to your communication.
“I told you it was almost inevitable that a custodial sentence would be imposed.
“But the circumstances that have arisen since March 12, and the delay caused, leads me to conclude that in this particular instance I can draw back from immediate imprisonment.”
Paedophile who claimed sick chats with ‘girl, 12’, was ‘role-playing fantasy’ faces jail
A married paedophile is facing jail for grooming a 12-year-old girl online – which turned out to be an undercover police officer.
Paul Appleton, 47, sent a string of vile messages thinking he was communicating with a schoolgirl after joining an adult sex site.
But it was in fact a specially trained police officer posing as a child online to “smoke out” paedophiles.
When he was arrested Appleton tried to wriggle out of his sick crimes claiming he believed he was in a “role-playing fantasy” with an adult woman.
But his lies were dismissed as “ludicrous” after he was found guilty of attempting to incite a child under the age of 13 to engage in sexual activity.
Appleton, of Long Lawford, Warwickshire, was warned he faces prison following the verdict at Warwick Crown Court on Friday.
Judge Anthony Potter told him: “You ran a ludicrous defence in the face of overwhelming evidence.”
Th court heard Appleton started communicating with the girl on social media while his wife was away from home last October.
Prosecutor Stefan Kolodynski said: “He’s charged with attempting to incite a girl under the age of 13 to engage in sexual activity, i.e. to undress herself and play with herself.
“At the time his wife was away from home, and in October last year he decided to access a social media platform.
“He registered on a sex chat site on which the minimum age one can select when registering is 18, so we can take from that that this is an adult platform site.”
He used the name PaulUK47, and began a conversation on the afternoon of October 3 with someone called Maya18.
Mr Kolodynski said: “What he did not know was that in fact there was a police operation, Project Atari, where specially-trained officers accessed such sites in order to smoke out people with sexual interests in children.
“Its aim is to protect children, and in fact Maya18 was a specialist officer who goes by the pseudonym TobyToby.
“No doubt it will be urged on you that by chatting to someone called Maya18 that he believed that person was 18.
“But if anyone reads the transcript of the chat, it soon turns out that he knew he was talking to a young girl aged 12.”
During one chat session he asked Maya: “Are you horny?”
The reply was that Maya was “only nearly 13” and Mr Kolodynski added: “Members of the jury, if you were on a chat platform like this and you saw that message, it would set alarm bells ringing – but not to Mr Appleton.
“He clearly tries to discover where she is and if she’s alone.”
Believing he was talking to a 12-year-old girl, he told her: “Having fun is so nice. Why not do it? Take off your clothes and caress yourself.”
Appleton described the sex act he was performing, and that “girls love it, bouncing on me,” and sent her an explicit picture of himself.
Appleton arranged to meet the girl at the entrance of an Asda supermarket in Rugby, Warks.
The covert police officer then traced Appleton to his home where he was arrested on November 7.
Appleton was bailed and ordered to return to court next month for sentencing.