August 2021

South Shields man snared by paedophile hunters for ‘schoolgirl’ sex chat

A woman exposed someone she knew when she found out paedophile hunters were trying to track him down for sending sex chat to an imaginary 14-year-old girl.

Paul Graham had used two different profiles on the Chat Hour social network site to send graphic messages to a fake schoolgirl’s account.

The 39-year-old, who was living at the time in South Shields, said he would travel to the teen’s home to have sex and that she should wait until her mum had gone out so they could meet.

When she said she was too young, Graham reassured her with the words “I won’t say anything if you won’t”.

Newcastle Crown Court heard volunteer group Child Online Safety Team, who were behind the 14-year-old’s account, put out a public appeal on Facebook to find out Graham’s full identity and uploaded a picture from his social media profile.

Once his details were revealed, the group contacted police.

Graham, of Lumley Gardens, Burnopfield, County Durham, admitted attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child between April 20 and May 1 last year.

Mr Recorder Simon Kealey sentenced Graham to a community order for 30 months with rehabilitation and sex offender treatment programme requirements.

Graham must also sign the sex offenders’ register and abide by a sexual harm prevention order for five years.

The judge told him: “You used two profiles to contact what you believed to be a 14-year-old girl. It was, in fact, a decoy profile run by a member of a volunteer group.

“The chats continued for a period of eight days.”

The judge said Graham’s messages “very quickly became sexually explicit” and told him: “When you uploaded a photograph to your profile it was used by the volunteer group to identify you.”

The court heard Graham, who has no previous convictions, had already deleted the social media app before he was tracked down and confronted.

Gavin Doig, mitigating, said: “He voluntarily desisted from contact.”

Mr Doig said Graham had been experiencing difficulties in his relationship at the time of the offence and recognises he behaved in an “appalling manner”.

He added: “It was a serious but isolated incident.”