March 2021

Workington man guilty of organising child sex offence

A west Cumbrian man has been convicted of trying to meet a stranger in a hotel so they could sexually abuse a child.

Connor Askew, 25, told a jury that his sickening online contact with a man he did not know was a genuine attempt to ‘trap’ a self-confessed child abuser. But after hearing evidence, a jury rejected his absurd claim.

At Carlisle Crown Court, the defendant, of Mitchell Avenue, Workington, was found guilty of two offences: arranging to facilitate a child sex offence and sending an indecent image of a child to another person.

The court heard that Askew met the man he aimed to commit the offence with on the dating app Grindr.

But the stranger later turned out to be an undercover police officer. Askew insisted that his decision to send the man an indecent child image was all part of his plan to ‘trap’a child abuser.

Prosecutor Julian Goode called his suggestion “ludicrous.” 

He said: “If the defendant is to be believed, this was simply an unfortunate case of one undercover paedophile hunter trying to trap another one, and it’s all just an unfortunate misunderstanding.

“That is absolutely ludicrous. When you look at the evidence and the action of this defendant, it’s clear why he acted the way he did.”

Earlier in the week, the jury heard a summary of the defendant’s police interview.

In it, Askew told officers he first spoke to the other man involved on a gay men’s dating app called Grindr and that the man discussed sexually abusing a four-year-old boy.

The defendant said he “played along” with the other man in online conversations because he wanted to ‘track’ him. 

For this reason, he sent the man a picture of his own penis, though it was an old picture, he said.  He also arranged to meet the man in January of 2019 at a Cockermouth hotel.

Talking of the man, he said he was trying to ‘trap’, he said his conversation had ‘quite quickly’ turned to him abusing a child.    

There was nothing in his own initial conversation to suggest he was interested in children, he said.

Asked why he had not contacted the police when told of the abuse, the defendant said: “Because at that point it would have been an anonymous profile, with no face; none of his personal details.”

He knew the man’s approximate location — the Whitehaven area but not his exact whereabouts. 

“I decided rather stupidly to try to trap him,” he said. He planned to meet the man and then phone the police, he said.

He admitted sending the man an indecent image of a child, obtained from an online group the man told him to join. Asked if he was turned on by the image, the defendant said: “No. I was disgusted.”

He said he sent that indecent child image to the man in order to “add authenticity” to the character he was portraying.

The jury unanimously found Askew guilty of both charges.  He will be sentenced at crown court on May 7 and was released on conditional bail.

The judge, Recorder Katherine Pierpoint, told Askew that may be facing an immediate custodial sentence. The defendant was released on conditional bail until his sentencing.

In the meantime, he was barred from contacting any child under 16, and told that he must live and sleep at his home address.