An Alnwick man was handed a suspended prison sentence today after meeting a 13-year-old girl – or so he thought – at the town’s bus station with cans of lager.
Steven McCarthy, of Upper Howick Street, befriended and exchanged messages with a 13-year-old girl on Facebook, including references to having sex and kissing, before arranging to meet her at Alnwick bus station during the summer. However, the girl was in fact a fake profile set up by Dark Justice, the group which aims to expose paedophiles and those who groom young people online.
The 46-year-old had pleaded guilty to attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming at his first appearance at Newcastle Crown Court, on September 12, and this morning he was sentenced to an eight-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.
Judge Robert Adams explained that this sentence, which includes 54 hours and 60 hours respectively on two different programmes to deal with his offending, offered the best way of dealing with ‘whatever warped attraction McCarthy has to young people’, which would not happen during a short stint in jail.
In July, McCarthy had sent a friend request to the girl and the messaging ‘became more persistent’, according to Lee Fish, prosecuting.
On August 10, he referred to her as ‘babe’ and asked her what she wanted. She asked him the same question and he said, ‘Sex, if you want to’. McCarthy was asked, ‘Would my age not put you off, being 13?’, and he replied, ‘Not at all, babe’.
There were further conversations on August 12 and 13, during which the meeting was arranged and McCarthy provided directions to Alnwick. He was asked, ‘Do you want to do kissing and stuff?’, to which he said, ‘If you want’. Once again, ‘she’ raised the issue of her age, but McCarthy was not put off.
On August 13, he was confronted at Alnwick bus station, turning up with cans of lager, which he said were for him alone. When he was arrested, he claimed that nothing was going to happen and that he had said she could sleep in his bed while he would use the sofa.
Images had also been exchanged between the pair, however, both were fully clothed in the pictures.
Richard Bloomfield, defending, highlighted the pre-sentence report which said that McCarthy was ‘lacking self-management skills with an inability to control his emotions and urges, especially when drinking alcohol’.
Discussing the sentencing guidelines, which he said were directed more towards ‘more predatory paedophiles’, Mr Bloomfield said that the report suggested ‘a rather pathetic picture’ of McCarthy, who has no previous convictions.
Further offending may have been ‘nipped in the bud by Dark Justice’, he said, highlighting the benefits of a sentence which included what was necessary to ‘address the attitudes which led to this offence being committed’.
“The reality is the prison system is so under-resourced,” he added.
Passing sentence, Judge Adams said: “It was made very clear that the person you thought you were communicating with was 13 years old. As the prosecution said, it could not have been made clearer to you that you were dealing with a 13-year-old.”
McCarthy will be placed on the sex offenders’ register and will also be subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for 10 years, which prevents him from using any device which can hide or mask its internet history and means he must allow police to inspect his devices and the browsing history when requested.