A MAN who preyed on what he believed to be a 13-year-old school girl was exposed following a sting by self-styled paedophile hunters.

John Boothroyd, of Vulcan Close, Padgate, was jailed for three years at Liverpool Crown Court after he was convicted of a string of sex offences.

The court heard how the 32-year-old was arrested after an undercover investigation by Dark Justice, a two-man operation based in Newcastle. 

The group was set up by two friends in 2014 to target sex offenders who try to groom and meet up with children following sexual grooming.

One of the 26-year-old co-founders said: “We set up a decoy profile for a 13-year-old in an online games group.

“Children and teens use it to share tips on playing games.

“We posted in that group about a Facebook game like Tetris and had 10 requests – John Boothroyd was one of those people.

“Pretty much straight away he was vile. We told him the decoy’s age but that didn’t stop him.

“One of the first things he said was that he wanted help with a daddy-daughter fantasy.”

The online conversation began on November 16 and on December 12, members of Dark Justice visited his home in Warrington and called the police.

“He didn’t know we were outside,” said the Dark Justice co-founder.

“We called police, handed over evidence and he was arrested.

“We’re not about publishing Facebook live videos – that’s not what we do. That can cause problems for us and the police.”

Since Dark Justice was set up in 2014, the group has secured 74 convictions with many more cases currently going through the justice system.

“The main reason we started doing this is because of the cuts to the police,” he said.

“We have been forced to do this by the Government.”

Boothroyd was sentenced on January 18 for attempting to meet a child under 16 following sexual grooming, attempting to cause or incite a child into sexual activity and breach of a sexual harm prevention order.

ONE of the co-founders of Dark Justice has lifted the lid on how they gather information.

The 26-year-old, who previously ran a media business, said: “When conducting our investigations, we never instigate. 

“Instead, we set up a profile and wait for messages. 

“When we receive a message, we reply and within the first few messages we tell them that the male or female is a child.

“When talking to anyone, we always try to avoid sexually explicit conversation. We act young and uneducated and don’t encourage sexual chat.” 

While some police forces have voiced concern about self-styled paedophile hunters who set up undercover sting operations, the 26-year-old outlined how the group Dark Justice is helping the police as cuts continue to bite.

He said: “If someone suggests a meeting after a chat online with our decoy and then doesn’t show up for the meeting, our evidence is still handed into the police and investigated.

“Some people are sceptical about what we do and how we do it. 

“We’re not vigilantes who operate above the law, we’re concerned citizens who work closely with the police to help and to keep our children safe.

“We will continue to work to catch these sexual predators who terrorise our children, and we will do our best to bring awareness to the epidemic our children are facing online.”