Former British Airways pilot who tried to lure 'boy' to his parents' Sunderland home for sexual activity is spared jail after losing his job

Gary Morris, pictured outside Newcastle Crown Court
Gary Morris, pictured outside Newcastle Crown Court

A former British Airways pilot who tried to lure an underage boy to his elderly parents' home so he could "sneak" him inside for sexual activity has kept his freedom because he lost his job.

Married Gary Morris, who was sacked by the airline, invited a 14-year-old boy called 'Tom', who he had chatted to over dating app Grindr, to come to the house in Sunderland, in the early hours of the morning, while his mother and father were in bed.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the 46-year-old, who lives in Brighton with his husband, but had travelled north for a post-Christmas visit in 2016, had been duped by Guardians of the North, an undercover team who set up fake internet profiles to expose adults looking for illegal contact with children.

When the commercial pilot, who qualified over 20-years-ago, expected schoolboy 'Tom' to turn up at the door, he was instead visited by officers from Northumbria Police, who had been tipped off by the group.

Morris denied attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming during a trial and claimed the online conversation was just "fantasy" and that he had been" distracted" when Tom told him he was still just a schoolboy.

He was found guilty by a jury after a trial last month.

Judge Edward Bindloss has now sentenced Morris to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with rehabilitation requirements and ten years on the sex offenders register.

The judge said Morris is a "low risk" to children and that the "one -off" incident two years ago could have been as a result of his intoxication.

His actions had cost Morris "a prestigious job and a job with substantial income" and Judge Bindloss added: "That, to some extent, is a significant punishment for you.

"It is unlikely, following the conviction and sentence, that British Airways will re-employ you."

The judge said Morris, who has been in no trouble before or since the offence, had been described in references to the court as being "responsible, sociable, kind, caring, hard working and a good friend".

Judge Bindloss told him: "I am confident you are going to stay out of trouble."

John Dye, defending, said: "It was moment of madness on that night two years ago, which the defendant has had time to reflect on."

The court heard Morris was staying with his parents in Sunderland on December 28 2016, where he had travelled in his black Audi convertible, along with his four-month-old puppy.

Jurors heard he had gone to a pub in the city and had around eight pints between 3pm and 11pm before getting a lift back to his parents' house from his father.

The court heard, while in the spare room at his parents' house, Morris made contact with 'Tom' and other men, while browsing Facebook and playing an online scrabble game named Words with friends.

Morris told jurors he had used the Grindr dating app for around six years but would delete it and re-download it as he "didn't want his husband finding out about it".

He said he used the site for "sexual gratification" but that it was "pure fantasy" and he never had any intention of meeting anybody.

He said he must have "missed" the message where 'Tom' told him he was 14, as he had been distracted by the other online activity.

But Prosecutor Michael Bunch told the court: "He wasn't after a fantasy. He was after actual sexual contact with 'Tom'."

Morris, who has never been in trouble before, admitted he felt "foolish, embarrassed and ashamed" and confessed he had "betrayed his partner" with the online activity.

His barrister John Dye told jurors during the trial the pilot would not risk his "career, relationship and reputation" by doing anything illegal and added: "What Mr Morris is adamant about is he is not a paedophile, he had no interest in children."

The court heard Morris was "dismissed" by British Airways because of the allegation.

A spokesperson for British Airways said: "​He no longer works for the airline and has not flown since his arrest in 2016."