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Skelton man thought he was chatting with girl, 13, in online police sting

Carlisle Crown Court

AN Eden man was caught in a police sting engaging in sexual online chat with what he thought was a 13-year-old girl.

Darryl James Saunders, 29, of Swinburn Cottages, Skelton, was sentenced at Carlisle Crown Court for criminal conduct committed between January 29 and March 26.

Prosecutor Paul Brookwell said Cumbria police learned of suspicions Saunders was accessing online platforms to “engage in sexual communication with children”.

“As a result,” said Mr Brookwell, “a police operation took place with a police officer employed to pose as a 13-year-old child.”

Saunders sent a private chat room message, using a pseudonym and claiming to be 17, before contact switched to Skype and video camera capability. He engaged “her” in graphic sexualised conversation and “talked of sexually educating her in this chat”, said Mr Brookwell. On camera, Saunders performed lewd acts, encouraged the “child” to act likewise and talked of “meeting her in order to have sex” – although no further arrangements were made

Saunders admitted attempting to engage in sexual activity in the presence of a child; and attempting to incite a child to engage in sexual activity.

He was arrested and interviewed. “He expressed his remorse and said he wished he hadn’t done what he had done, and wished he could go back,” said Mr Brookwell. “He did say he wasn’t sexually attracted to children. He said he couldn’t possibly explain the acts that he did.”

Judge James Adkin opted not to impose a prison sentence, noting Saunders – a man of previous good character – had made full admissions to police and co-operated fully with the probation service.

Judge Adkin told him: “If I imposed a short custodial sentence upon you, you will be released within weeks and you would not be able to address the mental health and psychiatric problems you have, which led you to behave in the way that you did with that undercover officer.”

Saunders received a three-year community order, comprising an accredited sex offender treatment course and rehabilitation.

Judge Adkin said: “I’d like you to be closely supervised in the community for as long as possible.”
Saunders must sign the sex offenders’ register, and comply with the strict terms of a sexual harm prevention order, for five years.

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