Retired council boss caught trying to meet underage boy in Sunderland car park
A married former local authority boss was caught on camera trying to meet a 15-year-old boy he befriended on a gay networking site.
George Applegarth, who had a wife for 42 years, with three children and seven grandchildren, started chatting to someone he thought was a teenage boy over Grindr.
But he had been duped by peadophile hunters Guardians of the North.Newcastle Crown Court heard within two days of starting the chat, the 64-year-old grandad arranged to meet the underage teen at an Asda car park in Pennywell, Sunderland.When he turned up to the meeting, Applegarth was confronted by members of the group, who had a video camera and the police in tow.Applegarth, of Station Estate North, Murton, County Durham, pleaded guilty to attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming.The court heard Applegarth had been told early in the online conversation in September that he was speaking to a 15-year-old boy called "Martin".He initially said the user was a "bit young" but then engaged in explicit sexual chat.Prosecutor Michael Bunch told the court Applegarth made a full confession when he was questioned by the police.Mr Bunch told the court: "He made full admissions, saying he had met a male he believed to be called Martin, who he believed to be 15, on the internet."He had arranged to meet him for the purpose of having sexual activity."Judge Edward Bindloss sentenced Applegarth, who spent six weeks in custody on remand, to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, with programme requirements, a Sexual Harm Prevention Order and ten years on the sex offenders register.The judge said Applegarth was a previous positive character but told him: "You knew from the outset that this was an underage boy."You have lived a law abiding life up to this. You are a good family man, married for 42 years with three sons and seven grandchildren. I accept this has had a devastating effect upon your relationship with your familiy."Judge Bindloss said "psychological and long lasting harm" could have been caused to a real teen involved in such an offence.Vince Ward, defending, said: "This conviction destroys his hitherto good character. That is something which in itself is a form of punishment. "Mr Ward said Applegarth, who has never been in trouble before, has sought help from mental health services during his time in custody.The court heard Applegarth worked as a local authority manager before his retirement.