A married dad has been jailed for 16 months after being caught talking to teenage girls by a paedophile sting set up by the Metropolitan Police.
Roger Hicks, 58, who was living in Long Sutton at the time, used a chatroom to contact what he thought were two 13-year-old girls.
But the pair were actually officers from the Met Police who had set up decoy accounts to trap paedophiles.
Stuart Lody, prosecuting, said that the police operation was then interrupted by a members paedophile hunting group who had separately been carrying out their own investigations into Hicks.
Mr Lody told the court: “He was arrested as a result of a so-called paedophile hunting group turning up at his home where he lived with his wife. He also has adult children who are no longer living with them.
“He was confronted. Neighbours became rather agitated and police were called. At that stage he was arrested and taken into custody not only for questioning but for his own safety.”
The prosecutor said that it may have been that the paedophile hunting group’s activities affected what was already an ongoing police investigation.
Mr Lody added: “It may well be that if the paedophile hunting group had not acted in the way they did then inquiries would have been broader. Other people who were perhaps of interest to the police have potentially not been dealt with.”
Mr Lody told the court that Hicks was the administrator for the chatroom and told the two Met Police decoys that they could trust him because of his role within the group.
Hicks went on to share photographs of himself, his workplace, his car and even his driving licence before turning the conversatyions to sex while insisting “I’m not a paedophile”.
He went on to have explicit sexual conversations with the decoys and sent photographs of his penis.
Mr Lody said: “He told one of them he would like to see her dressed in a school uniform from Asda. It seems that he had a particular predilection for schoolgirls.
“He said he wanted to engage in fantasy messaging. Teacher-pupil scenarios. Caning, spanking, that sort of thing.”
The court heard that the decoy account set up by the paedophile hunting group purported to be a 14-year-old girl.
Hicks engaged in sexual conversations with her and asked to be sent photographs which he could use to masturbate.
Hicks, 58, formerly of Anfield Road, Long Sutton, admitted two charges of attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child, one charge of attempting to incite a child to engage in sexual activity and one charge of attempting to cause a child to look at an image of sexual activity between June 11 and 19 this year.
He also admitted further charges of attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child and attempting to cause a child to watch a sexual act between June 14 and 26.
He was jailed for 16 months and given a seven year sexual harm prevention order.
Judge John Pini QC, passing sentence, described the messages sent by Hicks as “highly sexualised” and told him: “The sentence has to be one of immediate custody as the offences are too serious to be dealt with in any other way.
“You do need help. If you really want to get that help then it is up to you to seek it.”
Sunil Khanna, in mitigation, said that Hicks got involved in chatrooms two years ago and initially chatted with adult women but that led to issues within his marriage.
“He was then watching pornography. That led him to start trying to chat to young girls. That snowballed and led him to become involved in extremely sexual conversations with these young girls.
“He was in the app for two years but the sexualised talk was only going on for the last four months.
“He was living out his own fantasy. He had no intention of ever meeting these girls. He couldn’t help himself having started down this road.
“He has now spent the best part of six weeks in custody and has had time to reflect on what he has done. He needs help.”
In a statement, the paedophile hunting group that helped expose Hicks said: “We are disappointed with the sentence, Mr Hicks was in an alternative group with ourselves whereas in the case with the Met Police decoys he was the group admin.
“Mr Hicks spoke to our decoy until June 26, the day he was confronted, for some unknown reason the Met Police decoy contact ended on June 19.
“We would like to take this opportunity to apologise to the police for any disruption we may have caused as implied in court, however that is and never will be our intention.
“Furthmore, we handed this suspect over to police on June 14 due to safeguarding concerns, this was the very first day he spoke with us.
“The police were aware of our involvement and we took no action until 12 days later when we attended and ensured arrest.
“We strive to obtain better working relationships with the police, this case demonstrates how prolific one person can be.
“In light of the sentence, Our Team have submitted a review to the Attorney General under the unduly lenient scheme.”