A PAEDOPHILE has been locked up after being caught sharing disgusting sexual messages with someone who he believed was an 11-year-old girl in foster care.

Ethan Birch arranged to meet up with the ‘child’, bringing with him pairs of girls’ knickers and crop tops after discussing his depraved fantasies with her.

Unbeknown to him though that the ‘girl’ was in fact a member of a paedophile hunter group, who had set up a fake profile to catch offenders preying on youngsters online.

The defendant appeared to be sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court on Thursday after admitting five counts of attempting to cause a child to engage in sexual activity and two of attempting to cause a child to watch sexual activity.

He also pleaded guilty to one offence of attempting to meet a child after grooming, one of attempted sexual communication with a child and one of attempting to cause a child to engage in sexual communication.

Derek Jones, prosecuting, explained how the offences occurred over a 10-day period between January 12 and 21 this year.

The case involved a group ‘set up with the purpose of flushing out people that they perceived were child sex offenders’.

A group member set up a profile on the Chat Avenue social media platform under the guise of an 11-year-old girl named Izzy, who was messaged by the defendant in a teen chatroom.

The pair chatted and he asked her not to block him if he told her he was really 20, to which she replied she was aged 11.

After learning her age, Birch asked her if she was looking for a boyfriend and about her home life, to which she told him she was a foster child.

He made comments about her profile picture, telling her ‘how gorgeous she was’, and on the first day of speaking to her he asked her if she loved him.

The defendant continued to message over the following days on WhatsApp after they exchanged phone numbers, with his real name and photo appearing on his profile.

Ethan Birch was sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court

Ethan Birch was sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court

He told her that he ‘cared about her’ and that he wanted to ‘do something naughty together’, asking to see her underwear.

Birch asked a number of times for such photos, which she repeatedly refused to send, even after he sent her a photo of him in his boxershorts.

Mr Jones explained how the defendant used ‘manipulative language’ to try and get her to do what he wanted, such as asking her: “Do you want to make me happy?”

Chats turned to Birch instructing her how to perform sex acts on herself and ‘telling’ her that she had to show him her underwear as ‘she was his girlfriend’.

READ MORE > Nightclub video goes viral with 14million views

READ MORE > Warrington antique shop is named one of the best

He sent her a photo of his naked genitals and a video of himself performing a sex act, with discussions escalating further with more sexual requests of her, this time of a penetrative nature.

As the vile messages continued, she said: “Please don’t ask, it’s scary to do that.” In response, he said: “I’m not asking, I’m telling my girlfriend.”

While he also helped her with her schoolwork and explained maths concepts to her, the defendant then began to talk about meeting up at McDonald’s in Widnes, which was close to his then home in Warrington.

From the ‘couple of hundred pages of messages’, the prosecution determined it was Birch’s intention to meet up for sexual touching rather than penetrative activity.

The night before the proposed meet-up, the defendant’s ‘conscience seems to get the better of him’, with him telling her ‘how wrong his actions have been’ and that he ‘should not be talking like this to anybody under 18’.

This change of heart was however ‘relatively short lived’, and conversations ‘returned to type’ with more requests for her to perform sex acts on herself.

The pair arranged to meet up outside the DCBL Stadium on Lower House Lane in Widnes on Friday, January 21.

When the defendant arrived, he was greeted by members of the paedophile hunter group who detained him and called the police.

The proposed meet-up was at the DCBL Stadium in Widnes (Image: Google Maps)

The proposed meet-up was at the DCBL Stadium in Widnes (Image: Google Maps)

After arriving at the scene, officers searched Birch’s rucksack and found pairs of girl’s underwear aged 12-14 years, as well as crop tops and a clean pair of underwear for himself.

In his client’s defence, David Morton spoke of how the defendant was a man of ‘previous and positive character’, with no prior convictions.

He said that this was the ‘beginning of how he intends to live a law-abiding life in the future’, as someone who has ‘expressed remorse, regret and an utter sense of shame’.

Mr Morton commented that Birch is ‘utterly determined never to return to a criminal court again’, while references describe him as ‘hard-working, academic, polite respectful, naïve, industrious and shy’.

“Having had a taste of custody, his life will never be the same again, but there is a glimmer of real rehabilitation and a possibility of drawing back from an immediate custodial sentence,” he concluded.

Before sentencing, judge Brian Cummings said: “You were and still are 20 years old, and some of the most difficult sentencing issues for the courts arise when the defendant has not been in trouble before and where they are young, but where the offences are very serious – that very much applies in this case.

“This course of offending was relatively short, over 12 days, but unfortunately it cannot be said that it came to an end because you voluntarily desisted.

“It ended when you arranged to meet up in person with the intention of having sexual contact with her.”

Birch, of Little Lowes Meadow in Lowton, but appearing before the court via video-link from prison, was sentenced to four years and eight months detention in a young offender institution.

He must also comply with the terms of a sexual harm prevention order for an indefinite period, while signing the sex offender register for the same length of time.