Sex charge man spared jail after being trapped by paedophile hunters

A man has been spared jail after being confronted by paedophile hunters engaging in sexual conversation with an underage schoolgirl.

Thursday, 31st May 2018, 5:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 31st May 2018, 5:37 pm
Martin Kirkwood

Newcastle Crown Court heard Martin Kirkwood, 34, of Eden Terrace, Sunderland, began chatting to who he believed was an underage teen girl called Louise on social media website in May last year.

However the profile was actually a decoy account set up by a member of Guardians of the North in an attempt to expose adults looking online for underage sex.

Kirkwood appeared at Newcastle Crown Court

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Jolyn Perks, prosecuting, told the court how the chat did not turn sexual until Kirkwood contacted "Louise" again in February this year.

Mr Perks said that, at that point, "Louise" responded by telling Kirkwood "I'm back at school tomorrow, I hate being 14".

Mr Perks said Kirkwood than began to refer to the girl as sexy, said he would like to be in bed with her, requested topless pictures of the girl and sent her an indecent picture of himself.

He said: "He asked her who had access to her phone and told her not to tell anyone."

Mr Perks said Kirkwood organised to meet her on March 4 this year but cancelled the meeting and told her they would have to rearrange.

A number of members of Guardians of the North attended his address on March 6 to confront him.

They contacted the police and Kirkwood was arrested by officers.

Kirkwood admitted attempting to engage in sexual conversation with a child between February 23, 2018 and March 5, 2018.

Alec Burns, defending, told the court: "He thought about his own daughter and how anyone meeting her would be and that's why he thought better of it.

"He has been unable to work as he felt it was wrong that his employer should be embarrassed by his offences. He resigned to save them the embarrassment.

"He has considerable difficulties. He has realised how appalling this could be."

Mr Burns said Kirkwood "hasn't been idle in seeking help" and urged Mr Recorder James Wood to suspend the sentence.

Mr Recorder Wood told Kirkwood: "You again contacted Louise on the internet and she responded to you, reminded you, that she was a young person going back to school and at that stage your contact became criminal and was wholly and grossly inappropriate.

"Guardians of the North realised you were committing a sexual offence and they came around, as happens in these offences, to your home address."

Mr Recorder Wood told Kirkwood that "great harm" could have been caused had there been no intervention, however no harm was actually caused.

He sentenced Kirkwood to six months in prison suspended for two years with rehabilitation.

Kirkwood was also ordered to sign the sex offenders register and abide by a sexual harm prevention order, both for seven years.