An “outstanding” primary school headteacher caught sexting and arranging to meet someone he thought was a 14-year-old boy was jailed for four-and-a-half years at Lincoln Crown Court on Friday.

James Shawley, who was head of St Bartholomew’s Primary School at West Pinchbeck, near Spalding, from 2016 until being suspended following his arrest in December 2019, was caught in a sting operation when he contacted a covert police officer posing as a 14-year-old.

Shawley denied four charges but was found guilty by a jury earlier today (Friday) at the end of a three day trial.

He was placed on the sex offenders register for life and barred from working with children for life. Shawley was also given a 15 year sexual harm prevention order.

Shawley was described in court as an outstanding headteacher who had raised standards at St Bartholomew’s as well as two other schools where he was previously assistant head.

The court heard that he continued to be paid his salary while he was suspended and that only ended today (Friday) when he was found guilty.

As well as teaching he was a qualified FA coach and was coach of Spalding Under 11s. He previously coached Bourne Town Juniors.

Judge Catarina Sjolin Knight, passing sentence, said she regarded Shawley’s defence case as “wholly implausible”.

She said that as a headteacher and football coach Shawley knew more than most people the importance of protecting children.

The judge told him: “You have lost your good character, your career and your hobby. That is all down to you. Your life when you come out of prison will be very different.”

Marion Smullen, in mitigation, said the contact was with a fictitious boy rather than an actual 14-year-old.

“The defendant has been an outstanding teacher for the 22 years he has been in the profession.

“He was assistant head at two schools then became head at St Bartholomew’s. On every single occasion he bought those schools up to being outstanding.

“His other passion is football and coaching football. By this conviction he has lost his career and his passion in life. He won’t be able to do either again.”

She said Shawley sold his home to privately fund his defence case and is currently living with his mother.

During trial the jury was told that Shawley sent sexually explicit messages to the “boy” before arranging to meet him at a cinema in Huntingdon with the intention of having sex with him.

Shawley told the jury that he clicked on the “boy’s” profile on a dating site thinking it was someone over 18. He admitted that during chat the “boy” said that he was 14.

Shawley said: “I thought he was an adult pretending to be younger. I didn’t believe he was 14. I didn’t believe anybody of 14 on an adult app would declare their age so soon in the conversation. I thought it was a wind-up.”

Shawley, 45, formerly of Hereward Street, Bourne, and now living in Sheffield, denied two charges of attempting to incite a child to engage in sexual activity and further charges of attempting to engage in sexual activity with a child and attempting to facilitate or arrange a child sex offence. The charges related to dates between December 8 and 23, 2019.

The jury deliberated for just over 90 minutes before returning guilty verdicts on each charge.

Lincolnshire Police’s Detective Inspector Paul Coleman said: “I am really pleased that this has been brought to a successful conclusion, especially given the impact that this has had on the school and the local community. I would like to sincerely thank the officers involved in this case whose sheer diligence has led to today’s result.”

Police said that thankfully no children were harmed by Shawley’s actions, but that child exploitation and online grooming does affect children in the county, with devastating consequences.

A 45-year-old man sent sex messages to an undercover police officer posing as a 14 year old on the dating app Grindr, a jury was told on Tuesday.

James Shawley is alleged to have sent messages to the “boy” giving details of sex acts he wanted to perform on him and and then planned to meet up with him.

Julia King, prosecuting, told the jury at Lincoln Crown Court that Shawley, who at the time was living in Bourne, initially contacted the undercover officer, referred to in court as Jay, who had set up a profile using the display name “fun fun fun”.

Miss King said: “The charges faced by this defendant all arise out of written conversations he had online on two different media. One was a dating application, Grindr, and the other was over WhatsApp.

“This defendant contacted by way of Grindr somebody who ultimately identified himself by the name Jay.

“Jay was in fact an undercover police officer posing as a 14-year-old boy. He used the display name ‘fun fun fun’. He didn’t initiate contact with other users and waited for people to contact him.

“The defendant’s opening line was ‘Hello. Up for discreet fun’.”

Miss King said Shawley asked if Jay was looking for a boyfriend and Jay replied that he probably would when he left school.

“Five minutes into this first conversation the defendant asked ‘how old are you?’

“Jay replied he was 14. The defendant replied with the word ‘Jesus’.”

Miss King told the jury that during conversations that followed on both Grindr and WhatsApp, Shawley went on to detail his own sexual preferences and asked for a picture of Jay in swimming trunks.

“The defendant continued to make specific references to the sexual activity he wished to engage in with Jay.”

Shawley is alleged to have then arranged to meet the 14-year-old at the cinema in Huntingdon on the morning of December 27, 2019 intending to have sex with him.

Police identified Shawley as responsible for the messages and he was arrested at his home in Bourne four days before the planned meeting.

Miss King said: “The prosecution case is that the defendant had been caught attempting to engage in sexual activity with a child. He made a plan to meet what he thought was a child.

“It wasn’t actually a child but it was an undercover police officer. He didn’t know he was dealing with an adult. He thought he was dealing at all times with a child.”

When Shawley was interviewed by police he admitted sending the messages, but said his intention was to protect Jay from other users on Grindr and he wanted to shock and repulse Jay into leaving the site.

Miss King told the jury: “He said he intended to stand him up and not attend the meeting. He claimed he was acting in the interests of the 14-year-old boy and wanted to shield him from harm posed by others.”

James Shawley, 45, formerly of Hereward Street, Bourne, and now living in Sheffield, denies two charges of attempting to incite a child to engage in sexual actrivity together with further charges of attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child and attempting to arrange or facilitate the commission of a child sex offence by arranging to meet someone he believed to be a 14-year-old in Huntingdon with the intention of having sex with the child.

The charges relate to the period between December 8 and 23, 2019.

The trial continues.

Developers’ plans for 121 new homes in Bourne are set to be approved next week.

South Kesteven District Council’s planning committee will be recommended to give the go ahead to the joint proposals from Larkfleet Homes and The Bettinson Trustees for land at Manning Road, on Wednesday.

The plans will include 36 homes classed as affordable along with open space and a small children’s play area along the western front.

A new spine road that provides access to the proposed dwellings from Manning Road is also planned.

In a report before the committee members, council officers said: “The application site is allocated for residential development in the local plan and the proposed scheme is considered to comply with the development principles that accompany the allocation.”

The applicants will also be asked to pay a total of £688,972 towards education, health and open space provision in the area.

In documents before the council, the developers said: “The site will deliver a wide range of house types and on-site open space as well as potentially contributing to the provision of local education and health care facilities to be delivered off-site through the vehicle of S106 contributions. The site cannot viably deliver its own on-site local facilities but will be accessible to the existing local community facilities nearby”

More than 22 people have objected to the plans, including Bourne Town Council, who said the proposals were out of keeping with the character of the area, on land designated as employment and raised concerns over traffic on Manning Road.

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