An ex-railway worker who attempted to engage in sexual conversations with three people he thought were under-age girls while his girlfriend was dying with cancer has been jailed for 16 months, Lincoln Crown Court heard on Monday.
Jason Hildred, 48, of Walpole Close in Pinchbeck, was also ordered to register as a sex offender for ten years and made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order.
The court heard Hildred began swapping messages with someone he believed was a 12-year-old girl called Dani on the Chat Avenue site in November 2020.
Noel Philo, prosecuting, said Dani was in reality a member of an organisation which seeks to protect children.
During the social media messages, which also occurred on WhatsApp, Hildred tried to instigate sexual conversations, Mr Philo told the court.
Hildred also got in contact with another social media user who he thought was an 11-year-old girl called Izzy.
Mr Philo said that person in fact belonged to the same organisation and Hildred again tried to engage in sexual conversations with them.
The court heard Hildred had previously been sentenced to a three-year community order in 2013 for attempting to meet a girl aged under-16 following sexual grooming.
Hildred was arrested in June 2021 and admitted being “totally stupid” when interviewed about the more recent offences.
Mr Philo said Hildred was granted bail but was caught again later in 2021, this time by a police decoy who was pretending to be a 14-year-old girl.
Hildred was remanded into custody and pleaded guilty to three offences of attempting to engage in sexual communications with a child.
Nicholas Bleaney, mitigating, told the court all three offences were “attempts” where no physical contact took place and Hildred was entitled to maximum credit for his guilty pleas.
Mr Bleaney added: “His supervision for the previous offence ended in 2015 and it was five years before the first of this contact in November 2020.
“The genesis of this behaviour was lockdown. He was working on the railways, he has since lost his job, but found himself all alone with no distractions.
“At the same time his girlfriend was dying of cancer, she has since died. She was a lady from Thailand.”
Mr Bleaney told the court Hildred also fell victim to a con artist to whom he handed over his life savings of £70,000.
Passing sentence Judge Simon Hirst told Hildred he had to take into consideration that none of his victims were real children.
But Judge Hirst said he could not pass a suspended jail sentence because of Hildred’s previous conviction and his offending while on bail.
The judge told Hildred: “What you did was exactly the same thing with someone you thought was a 14-year-old girl.”