A west Cumbrian man drove from his home to the North East believing he was about to meet a 14-year-old girl he could have sex with.
But when he arrived at the rendezvous point in a Gateshead supermarket car park, Ian Kerr Mason, 49, was confronted not by the ‘child’ he believed he had ‘befriended’ online but by a volunteer paedophile hunter, Carlisle Crown Court heard.
Mason, formerly living at Cleator Moor but recently living at an address in Carlisle, pleaded guilty to five offences which were attempts to lure 14-year-old girls in sexual activity.
Martine Snowden, prosecuting, outlined how the defendant, living at Princes Street, Cleator Moor, when he committed the offences in 2019, was caught out thanks to two online paedophile hunting groups – one in Newcastle and one in Scotland.
The initial two offences – attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child and attempting to meet a child following grooming – were exposed after he was caught in Gateshead by the Online Child Safety Team, working with alongside the Scottish Wolf Pack group.
“He sent [the girl] pornographic videos,” said Ms Snowden.
When he asked the ‘girl’ about her body, and she said she thought she was more like a 10-year-old than a girl of 14, Mason told her: “I bet it’s beautiful.” It was to meet this girl that Mason travelled to Gateshead.
He had £100 cash with him – suggesting he was prepared to offer case in exchange for sexual favours, said Ms Snowden.
During his online conversations with the second ‘girl’, the decoy repeatedly said she was 14, said the prosecutor.
Mason – recently of Maryport Court, Carlisle – spoke to her about schoolwork and when she said she was a virgin he offered her money for explicit photos.
As he passed sentence, Judge Nicholas Barker noted that Mason – sincerely believing the people he was communicating with were 14-year-old girls – had travelled from his home in west Cumbria with the intention of having sex with a child.
“You were equipped for that and you planned for that exploitation,” said the judge, remarking on how the defendant when caught had with him in his car a sex toy and other sex equipment.
“You had an intention to perform…sexual activity,” said the judge. Of the decoys, the judge said: “They were purporting to be girls of that age to flush out paedophiles such as you, who predate on young females.”
Being told by one ‘girl’ that she looked younger than 14 only encouraged his deviancy,” said the judge.
He jailed Mason for 40 months.
Judge Barker imposed an indefinite sexual harm prevention order and put the defendant on the Sex Offender Register for life.