Sunderland pervert who tried to meet 15-year-old girl for "cheeky kiss" avoids jail for second time after legal challenge fails
A pervert who was snared after he tried to meet a 15-year-old girl for a "cheeky kiss" has avoided jail - for the second time.
Kevin Tomlinson, 38, was duped by members of paedophile hunting group Dark Justice into thinking he was chatting to a young girl online.
But when he arrived for their planned rendezvous, he was instead confronted, detained and later arrested.
Tomlinson, of The Royalty, Sunderland, admitted attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming at Newcastle Crown Court.
However, he walked away from court in September after the judge said it would be better for the public if he was treated for his problems in the community.
Today, the case was back in court as the solicitor general Robert Buckland QC tried to have Tomlinson jailed at the Court of Appeal, in London.
Lawyers for Mr Buckland said his nine-month suspended sentence was "unduly lenient".
But three senior judges rejected the application, upholding the suspended term to allow Tomlinson to continue his rehabilitation in the community.
"In our view, the judge perhaps was generous in selecting a custodial term of just nine months, but he was not unduly lenient in doing so," said Lord Justice Davis.
"It may also be that he was merciful in deciding to suspend the sentence, but that also does not make this sentence unduly lenient.
"To the contrary, the judge explained in crystal clear terms just why he thought this was an appropriate case to make a suspended sentence order.
"We think there is no basis for us to interfere. He was entitled to put the emphasis on rehabilitation, as he did."
The court heard Tomlinson had no relevant previous convictions, but had been cautioned after he went to police and admitted kissing an underage girl 20 years previously, when he was 17.
He offended again in June after striking up a conversation with 15-year-old 'Jesse' on a social networking website, inviting her to a meeting where they could have "a cheeky kiss."
In fact, the 'Jesse' account was operated by a member of Dark Justice, a group which hunts down men who engage in sex chat with children online.
In a report before Tomlinson was sentenced, a probation officer recommended a suspended sentence, which would allow treatment for his problems.
He has since begun voluntary treatment for his alcohol use and is due to start a course aimed at sex offenders.
Rejecting Mr Buckland's bid to jail Tomlinson, Lord Justice Davis said the judge was entitled to take account of his attempts to turn his life around.
His nine-month sentence, suspended for two years, was ordered to stand.