A BIRCHWOOD man, who was caught in a chatroom sting by self-styled paedophile hunters, has escaped an immediate prison term.
Daniel Bates, of Harcourt Close, Birchwood, was ensnared by a couple who launched a campaign to expose paedophile activity on the internet.
Steven Walker, aged 24, and Samantha Roberts, aged 20, from Oldham, decided to pose as teenage girls to expose indecent activity online after Samantha was raped as a 12-year-old girl in 2006.
The court heard how the couple, who have been campaigning for tougher sentences for people who commit sexual offences against children, set up pseudonyms on April 22 as a 12 and 13-year-old girl on Teen Chat – a chatroom for 13 to 19-year-olds.
Four days after the account was created, Bates using the name GUEST6546 started to message the couple, who were masquerading under the name Chloe12.
Philip Curran, prosecuting, told the court how the messages immediately turned sexually explicit despite the fact that Bates thought she was aged 12.
Later in a phone conversation, Bates told Mr Walker, who used voice distortion equipment to pose as a girl, that he was called Dave, was aged 18 and from Harpurhey in Manchester before asking her to perform a sex act.
All the exchanges were recorded and handed to the police by Mr Walker and Ms Roberts, who has bravely waived her right to anonymity.
Defending, Alexander Langhorn, said Bates, who has cerebral palsy, ‘understand his behaviour was unacceptable’ but that he had turned to alcohol due loneliness.
Sentencing, Judge Timothy Mort acknowledged the problems Bates has faced during his life.
He said: “Because of your disability you have not been able to find work and have lived an isolated life.”
“It is absolutely a concern for parents whose children are using the internet for this teenage chat line as to who is getting in touch with them. They hope they are people of a similar age,” he added.
Bates, who has no previous convictions, was sentenced to 15 months in prison which was suspended for 18 months for attempting to engage a child in sexual activity under the age of 13 at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester on Thursday.
He was also handed a five-year sexual offences prevention order.
Speaking after the case, Ms Roberts said they were disappointed by the sentence and would be appealing – brandishing it as ‘ridiculous’.
Lee Barton, aged 47, from Doncaster, was also sentenced on Thursday to 21 months in prison and a five-year sexual offences prevention order.
Earlier this year Philip Moule, aged 66, from Essex, was given a three-year community order for offences arising out of their pair’s sting.
Detective Sergeant John Coleman, who led the case, said: "We understand why people may feel strong enough about this issue to take matters into their own hands and draw attention to this kind of offending.
"In this particular case, the information provided enabled us to investigate and put the offenders before the courts.
"However, we strongly encourage people not to take the law into their own hands and to contact the police at the earliest possible time to enable us to look into it professionally. It is the police's role to investigate this type of offence.
"The best thing people can do, if they have evidence of child abuse or paedophile activity, is report it to the police, Crimestoppers or CEOP so that we can conduct a thorough investigation and make sure measures are put in place to ensure the safety of any potential victims."
Editor's note: This story is not linked to Daniel William Bates, of Talbot Close, Birchwood.