Student thanked paedophile hunters after being caught on camera trying to meet a 15-year-old boy for sex

A student caught on camera saying 'my mother is going to kill me' when snared by paedophile hunters when he hoped to meet a 15-year-old boy.

Wednesday, 4th September 2019, 15:52 pm
Updated Wednesday, 4th September 2019, 16:40 pm
The case was heard at Newcastle Crown Court.

Alexander Stafford thought he had been chatting to a 15-year-old boy over dating site Grindr but had been duped by Guardians of the North, who had set up the fake profile.

Newcastle Crown Court heard within three hours of the conversation starting, the 22-year-old, who was studying at Sunderland University, had arranged to meet the youth for sexual activity.

But when Stafford turned up at his local Tesco to meet the boy, he was confronted by Guardians of the North, who were armed with a camera and had alerted the police.

Stafford, of Portobello Lane, Sunderland, was arrested and confessed to police he "wasn't sure" if he posed a risk to real children.

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Prosecutor Paul Cleasby told the court: "He went on to offer thanks to Guardians of the North for preventing him from committing a serious sexual offence."

Stafford, who immediately sought professional help to address his problems, pleaded guilty to attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming.

Judge Amanda Rippon adjourned sentence in April to allow Stafford the opportunity to set up a private treatment programme with a psychiatrist in Cyprus, where he now lives with his family.

The court heard in the five months that followed, Stafford has attended a programme and regular sessions with the specialist, who produced a "very encouraging report" for the judge.

Judge Rippon sentenced Stafford to nine months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with 10-year sex offender registration in the UK.

The judge told him: "You should not underestimate how serious it is to make contact with what you think is a 15-year-old boy and arrange to meet him for sexual activity.

"It will not be tolerated in this country or in these courts.

"Untold damage is done to children that engage in sexual activity in life too soon and in abusive ways, as seen by me every day."

The judge said the offending was "extremely serious" but added: "You are still very young.

"You came to this country to study and I entirely accept you were very vulnerable, fragile and alone and didn't adapt very well and that is why this offending occurred."

Judge Rippon said Stafford was "very close" to going to prison but praised his behaviour since he was caught and added: "You thanked the organisation in police interview for stopping you from committing a criminal offence."

The court heard Stafford had started chatting with who he thought was "Richard", who he was told was 15, on a Sunday morning last September.

Mr Cleasby added: "The meeting was arranged for within three hours of the initial contact.

"The attempt to commit a sexual offence was within three hours of the first conversation with someone he believed to be a child."

Andrew Walker, defending, said Stafford will continue with his treatment and co-operate with the authorities for as long as is deemed necessary.