August 2021

Facebook pervert thought he was sending sexual chats to boy, 12 – but he avoids jail

A man who believed he was sending sexual messages to a 12-year-old boy was in fact snared by an online decoy.

Graham Thistlethwaite began chatting to the decoy on Facebook and continuously asked to meet up and sent sexually explicit messages, despite believing he was a child.

The 45-year-old even entered into another sexual chat with another decoy around the same time who he believed to be a 13-year-old boy.

Thistlethwaite, of Essex Close, Catterick Garrison, appeared at Teesside Crown Court on Monday to be sentenced for charges relating to attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child and trying to meet a 12-year-old boy for sexual activity.

He was also sentenced for attempting to meet a child for sexual activity following grooming.

Michael Smith, prosecuting, said on February 9, last year, Thistlethwaite entered into a conversation with a boy on Facebook, who he claimed to initially believe was 18-years-old.

However, as the conversation developed, Thistlethwaite was told by the boy he was only 12-years-old.

Mr Smith said Thistlethwaite had also sent him an explicit picture of himself “before being told” he was 12 and that it “may be that the defendant believed” the person was an adult “when communication began”.

However, Thistlethwaite still “accepted” the decoy was 12-years-old after being told, and continued to talk to him.

At some point, the decoy threatened to tell the police, but Thistlethwaite “pleaded with him not to”.

Explicitly sexual conversations between them soon followed, with Thistlethwaite sending the decoy his address and vehicle registration details amid “various conversations about meeting”.

Thistlethwaite was also seen on CCTV going to locations mentioned in the chats.

Mr Smith told the court that despite Thistlethwaite believing police may have been contacted by the supposed child, he still carried on with the sexual chats.

More chats about meeting were made on February 15, last year, with Thistlethwaite telling the decoy he believed he had been 18-years-old when the chats started.

Mr Smith said the messages continued into early March, before another decoy – who was an associate of the first decoy – made contact with Thistlethwaite.

Thistlethwaite believed the second decoy to be a 13-year-old boy and entered into a sexual conversation and sent a picture of himself.

A meeting was arranged, but when Thistlethwaite turned up, he was confronted by the adult decoys who blocked in his car and then called police.

The court was told Thistlethwaite had no previous convictions and owned up to the offences in interview.

Recorder Craig Hassall QC sentenced Thistlethwaite to 22 months prison, suspended for two years and ordered him to carry out up to 40 rehabilitation days.

He must also complete a sex offender programme and will be on the sex offender register for 10 years.

He will also be subject to a sexual harm prevention order, also for 10 years.