Durham man caught out by paedophile hunters after explicit messages

A man who thought he was chatting online to a 15-year-old girl said he would like to do, “naughty things” to her, a court heard.

Michael Hodgson’s initial apparently harmless chat with the girl he believed to be called ‘Chelsea’ took on a more sexualised slant in the early hours of July 16, 2020.

He sent her a number of explicit messages encouraging her to take part in sexual activity with him, telling her what he would like to do with her.

Durham Crown Court heard that there was no girl, however, as Hodgson had been communicating with a member of the paedophile-hunting group Guardians of the North, who had set up a fake profile purporting to be Chelsea.

Read more: County Durham teen said he was trying to catch paedophiles

Chris Baker, prosecuting, said Hodgson made contact with ‘Chelsea’ via an online dating site, a few days earlier.

He told her he was 21, which was his true age at the time, while ‘Chelsea’ made it clear to him she was aged 15.

Mr Baker said they exchanged friendly messages over the coming days before the defendant’s true intentions became clear in those messages early on July 16.

The Guardians of the North member who posted the fake profile made inquiries and turned up to confront Hodgson at his home, at 5pm that day.

Once he had established he was talking to Hodgson he contacted police who arrested the defendant.

He accepted he had been speaking to ‘Chelsea’ but initially told police he believed her to be aged over 18.

But when he appeared before magistrates, recently, he indicated a likely guilty plea to a charge of attempting to cause or hurt a child under 16 to engage in penetrative sexual activity.

The case was sent to the crown court where the now 23-year-old defendant, of Morrison Close, Woodham, Newton Aycliffe, did plead guilty.

Read more: Horden man fell for paedophile hunters’ online sting

Jennifer Coxon, for Hodgson, told the court: “It’s clear he fully accepts the offense for which he is to be sentenced today.

“He has put his hands up at the first opportunity and would ask therefore for a one-third credit on sentence.”

She said that just prior to the offending he was having to come to terms with the loss of a family member and turned to drug misuse as a coping mechanism.

Miss Coxon said the drug abuse led to him falling into debt and he became “extremely isolated” but found solace on the internet, using the dating app.

“Despite knowing this female was under age he continued to have conversations with her.

“While some of the early conversation might be classed as ‘grooming’, the conversation that constituted the offense was over about 30 minutes and there was no request for images.

“When challenged he made admissions.”

Miss Coxon said the defendant only has limited unrelated convictions, and she urged Judge Ray Singh to impose a suspended sentence to enable the Probation Service to work with her client to address his behavior.

Judge Singh acknowledged the defendant’s early admissions to what were “very serious offenses”.

He told Hodgson: “Although it was a fake profile that was created on that dating app, it is abundantly clear you thought the person you were speaking to was only 15.

“You tried to lure the victim in with initially non-sexual chat for a couple of days.”

The judge said there were, “elements of grooming”, before the conversation became more “sexually explicit”, and he added that it appeared the defendant’s intention was, in due course, to meet what he thought was a real girl to commit serious sexual offending.

Imposing a two-year prison sentence, the judge said it was “too serious” to suspend it, and he also made Hodgson subject of the terms of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order, for seven years, and registration as a sex offender, for ten years.

Read next:

Langley Park man thought he was communicating with 13-year-old girl

Man, 33, fell for paedophile hunters’ online sting

The moment ‘paedo hunters’ caught pervy Darlington teenager

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