March 2020

Paedophile wanting sick schoolgirl fantasy stung by undercover police posing as a child

A man who was caught out by undercover police attempting to meet a fake 12-year-old girl for sex has been spared jail.

Steven Barrass, 39, engaged in a conversation with a 12-year-old girl asking if she was a virgin and “wanted to meet for fun”.

The young girl, known as Maddie, was in fact a pseudonym used by police investigators working undercover to catch out online sexual predators.

Barrass, of Station Avenue, Bridlington, arranged to meet with ‘Maddie’ near a McDonald’s in Hull before getting “cold feet” and telling her to delete his number.

He appeared at Hull Crown Court on Friday, March 13, to be sentenced for one count of attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child.

Prosecuting barrister Richard Thompson told the court that Barrass spoke to ‘Maddie’ on the chat site Kik asking her for a “naughty picture” and saying that he had once been with a girl as young as 14.

Mr Thompson said: “The defendant came to the attention of investigators involved in an undercover operation targeting online child sexual exploitation.

“Maddie was a pseudonym used by online investigators. The defendant initiated a private chat with Maddie and he was told she was 12-years-old and at school.

“He asked if she was a virgin and if she wanted to meet for fun. When asked what that meant he said oral sex.

“He told her the youngest he had had was 14-years-old and there was a discussion about where to meet. He sent a photo of his erect penis and asked for a naughty picture of Maddie.

“He said they would meet near a McDonald’s restaurant in Hull and suggested meeting in the car park of the nearby ice rink because it was more private. He asked her if she had condoms.”

Barrass, who has no previous convictions, suddenly got “cold feet” and backed out of meeting ‘Maddie’ telling her that she “needed her head testing” and to delete his number.

When he was approached by police Barrass told them: “I know what this is about. It’s about Kik.

“I have had this before. It is a bad site.”

Sentencing Barrass to six months in prison suspended for two years, Judge David Tremberg said had Barrass engaged in sexual activity with a real 12-year-old girl he would have been looking at a sentence of many years in prison.

Judge Tremberg said: “You were a lonely isolated man with low self-esteem, with special educational needs and struggled with mental health.

“You appear to have retreated into something of a fantasy world where you set out to gain sexual gratification from contact with underage girls through the internet.

“However fragile you might be, if you had been corresponding with a real 12-year-old girl and if you had met up with that girl, and engaged with her, you would now be serving a sentence of many years – probably double figures.

“But that is not the case here. You got cold feet and you backed off before you went through with what you had been discussing on the internet.”

Barrass has been placed on the sex offenders register for seven years and must adhere to a sexual harm prevention order for the same length of time.