March 2021

Scarborough paedophile caught by paedo hunters posing online as teenage girls

A paedophile has been jailed after being caught online by groups posing as children.

Benjamin Watkinson, 33, from Scarborough, contacted what he thought were under-age teen girls, telling them he wanted to be their boyfriend and asking at least one of them to have sex with him.

In fact, the “girls” were adult “paedophile hunters” who had set up profiles on Facebook and WhatsApp.

York Crown Court heard that Watkinson had sent pictures of his private parts to two of the fictitious girls, who told him their ages were 13 and 14 respectively.

Police were first alerted to his nefarious activities by a member of a vigilante group, who had acted as a decoy by uploading the profile of a fictitious girl onto the internet.

The decoy told police that Watkinson began contacting the bogus girl after sending her a ‘friend’ request on Facebook Messenger.

“They swapped mobile numbers and talked on WhatsApp,” said prosecutor Katherine Robinson.

The ‘girl’ told Watkinson she was 13 years old and deaf, but the conversations continued.

“He asked her if she was pretty and asker her what she liked to wear,” added Ms Robinson.

Watkinson asked the ‘girl’ if she would be his “secret girlfriend” and have sex with him. He then sent ‘her’ 12 photos of his genitals and asked ‘her’ to show him an intimate part of her body.

Police were then contacted by a decoy from another vigilante group who said she had been contacted online by Watkinson.

The decoy had uploaded a profile of a fictitious 14-year-old girl whom Watkinson contacted, telling her she was “good-looking” and asking for photos.

When the ‘girl’ told Watkinson she was only 14 years old, he replied: “Truly, to be honest, I fancy you.”

“He told her he wanted to have children with her (but that) if they had a relationship he would go to prison,” said Ms Robinson.

Watkinson then sent ‘her’ 11 photos of his private parts.

Another vigilante group told police that Watkinson had been chatting to a decoy posing as a 13-year-old girl on a social-media platform and WhatsApp, sending ‘her’ a picture of himself and saying he wanted to be her boyfriend.

“He said they didn’t have to kiss or have sex unless she wanted to,” said Ms Robinson.

Watkinson, of Castle Road, was arrested in April last year and released on bail on condition that he didn’t have any new internet-enabled devices but during a subsequent search of his home, police found he had been browsing the web using search terms such as ‘young girls having sex’ and ‘rape scene with kids’, although no indecent material was found.

He appeared for sentence on Friday after admitting three counts of attempting to communicate sexually with a child. The offences occurred over a month-long period between March and April 2020.

Judge Simon Hickey said Watkinson had deliberately “manoeuvred” the chats from “ordinary conversation” to wanting pictures and talking about sex.

Jailing him for eight months, Mr Hickey told him: “You are clearly quite an isolated individual…but you knew what you were doing and you knew what you wanted.”

Watkinson was also placed on the sex-offenders’ register for 10 years and made subject to a sexual-harm prevention order, for a similar period, designed to curb his internet activities.