January 2021

Greenock sex offender caught in online decoy sting

A sex offender from Greenock has been caught encouraging a ’14-year-old’ to perform intimate acts in a series of twisted dating app messages.

Thomas Stevenson, 54, was unaware he was in fact communicating with an adult female posing as a schoolgirl when he told her she should be ‘enjoying’ her body.

The pervert — who has been spared a prison sentence — went into graphic detail of what he wanted the ‘child’ to do.

Stevenson ‘constantly asked’ the decoy, who used a profile picture of a teenage girl, if she touched her private parts, Greenock Sheriff Court was told.

The court heard how Stevenson, a former chef, communicated with the decoy across two dating apps — ‘Skout’ and ‘Meet Me’ — between October and December of 2019.

Prosecutor John Penman said: “The decoy believed that she was being groomed by the accused.”

Instead of jail time, Stevenson — who also asked the female whether she was bisexual — has been placed on a restrictive three-year programme of supervision and an electronic tagging order.

He pleaded guilty to committing the offence ‘for the purposes of obtaining sexual gratification’ in an attempt to ‘communicate indecently with an older child’.

Stevenson, of Inverkip Road, sat in the dock with his head bowed as the details of his offending were narrated by fiscal depute Mr Penman.

The decoy, a member of a group called Child Protectors Scotland, had told Stevenson that she was 14 and lived in Paisley.

She told him that his request was ‘mingin’ and ‘pure embarrassing’ but he persisted: “Believe me, everyone does it, even your mum lol.”

Stevenson then added: “You should be enjoying your body.

“Go to the bathroom just now and tell me how it feels.”

He was arrested after the decoy and two other members of her group confronted him at his home before calling police.

Stevenson, of Inverkip Road, told officers: “I was only talking to her.”

He was originally indicted, but the Crown reduced the case to summary level which would have limited any prison sentence.

Sheriff Andrew McIntyre told Stevenson: “It is very disturbing for everyone in this court to listen to what you said to a person whom you thought was a child.

“I’m told that you had no intent to take it further but it is very concerning that you thought you could speak to a child in this manner.”

Sheriff McIntyre added: “On balance, I consider the best way to deal with this is by way of a community-based disposal with a number of requirements.

“If you don’t comply with what I impose today you will go to prison.

“Because this is a summary case the maximum sentence would be for a relatively short period of time.”

As part of Stevenson’s three-year supervision programme he is not allowed to leave the UK without permission, must have no contact with anyone under the age of 16 without approval and is subject to restrictions and cannot own more than one mobile phone or computer with internet access.

He must also provide the serial number for any such device to a supervising officer as well as any passwords.

Stevenson can only use apps if he has approval to do so, must not delete his internet search history and can’t use social media without permission.

Any internet-enabled device he owns can be monitored and he must allow physical access to it when requested.

The tagging order restricts him to his home between 8pm and 8am each day for a year.

Stevenson will remain on the Sex Offenders Register for five years