A north Northumberland man has avoided jail after pleading guilty to a string of sexual offences, including attempting to meet a 15-year-old girl he had groomed online.
David Curran, of Brotherwick Farm Cottages, Warkworth, pleaded guilty to one count of meeting or communicating with a girl under the age of 16, four counts of making indecent images of children and four counts of possessing indecent images of children.
Police found a total of 1,673 indecent images of children, some aged between two and four, across several devices as well as 49,154 'lawfully-held' pornographic images. The search of his property took place in July 2014 after he attempted to meet a 15-year-old girl that he had met online at the Millennium Bridge in Newcastle, unaware that 'she' was in fact a fake profile set up as a trap by paedophile hunters Dark Justice.
Curran had sent numerous messages to the 'girl' online, calling her sexy and sharing pictures of himself semi-naked and naked, 'shielding his genitals'. Arriving at the meet, he was videoed and then confronted by the pair who had set him up before leaving, saying that it was 'role play'.
At Newcastle Crown Court this morning, the 56-year-old was handed a 20-month prison sentence suspended for two years, during which time he will be under a supervision order and required to undertake up to 54 days on the Northumbria Sex Offender Group Programme.
Handing down the sentence, Judge John Milford said: "The fact of the matter is that you have developed, in mid life, an extremely unhealthy interest in teenage girls, which you were prepared to put into effect." He added that it was fortunate that Curran 'had been flushed out'.
Judge Milford continued: "Had you contested this case or had a bad record, I would not have hesitated in sending you to prison. Furthermore, much work needs to be done with you to straighten out your sexual identity and your attitude to others and it won't, I'm afraid, be done in a sentence of this sort effectively. Far more work can and will be done if you are allowed your liberty and that is for the good of the public."
Earlier, Anne Richardson, defending, accepted it was 'a stark choice' between a suspended and actual sentence, but pointed out that Curran is a man 'who has led a perfectly normal, law-abiding life'. "When matters go wrong in his private life, he turns to the internet," she said,
Judge Milford agreed, saying Curran 'has become isolated from the real world', but described it as 'disturbing' that he went to meet a 15-year-old girl. Miss Richardson admitted it was concerning, but added: "It's quite clear there's no indication of an intention of penetrative sexual activity."
Of the 1,673 images on his devices, 430 were classified as category A (involving penetrative sexual activity), 205 were category B (involving non-penetrative sexual activity) and 1,038 were category C (other indecent images). His sentence was made up of 12 months for the attempt to meet a girl under 16 plus eight months for the indecent images.
Curran will also be subject to a five-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order, which requires him to have no contact with children; to have no images of children, apart from family and then only with written permission; to register all computers and mobile phones with police or probation officers after purchase; not to own computers or mobile phones where the browsing history cannot be traced; and to allow police to check his browsing history if requested. He will also be on the sex offenders' register for 10 years.