Traveller snared by Guardians of the North after trying to meet Sunderland ‘teen’ for sex
A traveller has been "ostracised" by his community after trying to meet a child for sex.
Tony Lawson thought he had been chatting to a 14-year-old boy on dating site Grindr in the summer of 2017.
But Newcastle Crown Court heard the married 37-year-old had been duped by Guardians of the North, an organisation of volunteers who pose as children online to snare potential predators.
When Lawson turned up to meet the boy at shops on Thornhill Road, Sunderland, he was spotted by members of the group, who followed him to his home address and contacted the police.
Lawson, now of Lancaster, admitted attempting to meet a child after grooming.
The court heard on the day he admitted his guilt, the travelling community, including his wife, "turned against" Lawson, who has since moved away on his own.
Prosecutor Paul Cleasby told the court the organisation provided officers with screenshots of online conversations.
Mr Cleasby told the court Lawson "flattered" the boy and said he "loved his eyes".
Mr Cleasby added: "He asked the profile how old he really was and was told 14.
"The child said he hadn't had any sexual experience and the defendant offered to be his first."
The court heard Lawson admitted to police he was "bi-curious" but claimed he had been in the area of the meeting simply to visit a relative.
He admitted his guilt on the day he was due to face trial. Judge Edward Bindloss sentenced Lawson to 16 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months.
He must sign the sex offenders register and abide by a sexual harm prevention order for 10 years.