June 2021

Shropshire man avoids prison after being caught by online paedophile hunters

A Shropshire man who had sordid online chats with someone he thought was a 14-year-old girl has narrowly avoided jail.

Daniel Lees was caught by a paedophile hunting group who reported him to the police in June 2019.

When his phone was examined officers discovered that he had previously had social media conversations with someone he believed was a 13-year-old girl in America.

The latest offences involved a 14-year-old and took place in Crosby, Merseyside, in 2019

Liverpool Crown Court heard that it was not known if that person was a real girl or not but Lees, of Watergate Street, Ellesmere, changed his mind about going to meet her.

Sentencing him on his 46th birthday on Friday, Judge Neil Flewitt QC told him: “It’s not a good way to be passing it.”

“For a period of days in the spring of 2019 when you were at a low ebb as a result of tragedy in your personal life and other issues you were facing and when drinking heavily you committed three of the offences sent this court.”

He told Lees: “You had the good sense to admit your offending in interview. You pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.

David Watson, prosecuting, said that paedophile hunting group ‘Predator Closure’ set up decoy profiles on various social media sites. These included a girl called ‘Cara’.

Lees contacted her on May 30, 2019 and when she said she was 14 he said “it was still ok to chat” and the conversation continued the next day.

“He asked Cara if she liked older guys and said he liked her pictures and fancied her.”

He asked for a photograph and she sent him a picture of a 14-year-old girl. Their chat then moved to WhatsApp and he sent her a lewd photograph of himself which he then deleted. He asked her to send him topless pictures of herself.

When his home was searched, checks of his electronic devices revealed chats between him and females identifying themselves as under 16.

The fourth charge related to chat with a purported 13-year-old girl in America in 2015 and 2016.

Unemployed Lees pleaded guilty to attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child, two offences of causing a child aged between 13 and 15 to engage in sexual activity and attempting to cause a child aged 13 to 15 to look at an image of sexual activity.

Lees was jailed for two years, suspended for two years. He was also ordered to carry out 240 hours unpaid work and 30 days rehabilitation activities.

He was put on the Sex Offenders Register and made the subject of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order both for ten years.