December 2020

Groomer who told ‘girl’ he wanted to ‘cuddle and watch films’ told ‘you need to realise you’re a paedophile’

A cyber creep sent pictures of himself in the bath to what he thought was a 13-year-old girl only to discover “Paige” was really a member of a paedophile hunter group.

Stephen Peter Brown, 29, of Canal Reach, Windmill Hill, Runcorn, had contacted the purported teenager online and said “she looked cute” in his opening message, prosecutor Frances Wilmott told Chester Crown Court on Friday.

The decoy told him she was 13 years old and he replied he was 29, but the age gap “didn’t bother him a lot” and asked for a phone number.

After asking for pictures to prove she wasn’t a man pretending to be a child, the conversation moved to WhatsApp message service, and despite revealing he felt “weird” talking to her, he continued and he sent pictures of himself.

Brown suggested meeting up and when she told him her mother was concerned about her having a boyfriend before she turned 18, he said they would “cuddle and watch films” and he offered to buy her a phone.

When she sent him supposed pictures of “Paige”, he said she was “gorgeous”.

Brown – who already had an existing Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) imposed following a grooming offence in 2013 – then sent pictures of himself in the bath and of his genitals.

On October 25, Brown’s employer contacted the police after members of the paedophile hunter group turned up at his workplace to confront him and “he ran away”.

Brown later handed himself in and claimed he had sent the obscene picture in error, as it was “intended for a work colleague”.

And although he had deleted his chat history, his denials ceased when confronted with the paedophile hunter group’s saved conversations.

He pleaded guilty to attempted sexual communication with a child and attempting to breach a SHPO.

Brown had four convictions for six offences including meeting a child after sexual grooming and sexual activity with a child aged 13 when he was 21, which involved meeting a girl for sex but she fled after he kissed her.

Judge Patrick Thompson, presiding, noted that a pre-sentence report classed Brown as a “very high risk to children” and he told Brown he needed to realise he’s a “paedophile”.

Mark Connor, defending, pleaded mitigation for Brown’s guilty pleas and said his client had “shown remorse” and “had recognised and does recognise that he needs help”.

He added the defendant has a “good work record” and Mr Connor asked for the sentence to be kept to a minimum, as he cited the harsher prison conditions of incarceration during the pandemic.

Mr Connor said there was no real victim and no harm in the case, although Judge Thompson cited precedent set in the case of Privett, which says sentencing should be based on intended harm.

Judge Thompson sentenced Brown, who was produced from custody for the hearing, to 30 months in prison.

Sending him down he said: “I’m satisfied that you are a paedophile.

“You have an unhealthy interest in children, an unhealthy interest in children around the age of 13.

“You’ve repeatedly attempted to meet with 13-year-old girls.

“On this occasion you were talking to a paedophile hunter.

“You may well feel a sense of injustice you were caught.

“You wouldn’t be caught in this way if you weren’t trying to talk to 13-year-old girls.”

He added: “You are a very high risk to children.

“You minimise your behaviour, you see yourself as to some extent as a victim.

“Until you open your eyes and realise you’re a paedophile, the sentences are going to get longer and longer because children need to be protected.”