Council Children’s Services team leader started sexual chat with what he thought was girl, 13, online
The career of a Leicestershire children’s services team manager is in tatters after a covert police operation caught him indulging in sexual chat with what he believed to be a 13-year-old girl.
But disgraced David Atkinson has escaped being jailed after pleading guilty at Warwick Crown Court to attempting to cause a child to watch a sexual act.
Recorder Balraj Bhatia QC observed that as a team manager in Leicestershire County Council’s children’s services department, the 42-year-old ‘should have known better.’
Prosecutor Tim Sapwell said that in June 2019 Atkinson ‘began to engage in conversation on a chat platform set up by an undercover police officer.’
It began with Atkinson contacting a profile posted by the officer, saying ‘hi’ and asking whether she was ‘into older guys.’
Told the girl was only 13, he immediately asked for a picture of her and asked if she would like to see an image of his genitals.
But he asked to see her first, and when she said she did not have any pictures, he threatened to end their conversation, so he was sent a legal picture of a 13-year-old girl.
That did not satisfy him, and he asked about her breasts and sent her a picture of him exposing himself as he asked her to take a picture of herself in her underwear.
He was sent a picture of the girl with a filter giving her animal ears, and said he would like to see her with less on.
Atkinson sent a picture of someone in a car and said he would like to take her for a ride, and he again asked her to go into the bathroom and take a picture of herself in her underwear.
The police then executed a warrant at his home where he was arrested, and they seized his phone and laptop which showed he had visited a porn site with references to teenagers.
When he was interviewed Atkinson claimed he was on holiday at the time and had no knowledge of any of the activity and suggested his devices had been hacked, said Mr Sapwell.
He observed that through his employment, Atkinson would have known of the issues his activity could cause, and Recorder Bhatia commented: “He could have known better, and should have known better.”
Sentencing Atkinson, Recorder Bhatia told him: “You are a man hitherto of positive good character.
“You had an extremely responsible job, and that job no doubt entailed work with families who required your assistance, families which no doubt had young children with emotional problems which required the assistance of your department.
“So you are well aware of the difficulties many young girls have in difficult family situations, and the trauma and distress they may have suffered.
“I accept what you did was out of character. It is also plain that you had your own difficulties which you have dealt with by a combination of prescription drugs, alcohol and cannabis.
“It is difficult to understand what it was that triggered you into committing the offences you now fall to be sentenced for.
“You have a young daughter. Imagine she is 13 years of age and subject to precisely these facts. You would expect that the court should take a harsh view in punishing that defendant.
“I accept this was an undercover officer and therefore no actual harm was perpetuated, but it is the intended harm I have to look at. I have to consider whether it should be an immediate custodial sentence or whether there are proper grounds on which to suspend that sentence.”
Atkinson, of Red Lane, Burton Green, Kenilworth, who also admitted attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child, was sentenced to eight months jail suspended for two years.
He was also ordered to take part in a rehabilitation activity, to do 180 hours of unpaid work, to register as a sex offender for ten years, and to pay £500 costs.