A MAN has asked for ‘naughty pics’ online of what he thought was a 13-year-old girl – but was actually chatting with an undercover officer.
Stephen Prentice, 51, has been told by a judge he is the latest of a ‘growing number’ of isolated and lonely middle-aged men to end up in the dock for sexual conversations with children.
In early May last year, Prentice asked what he thought was a 13-year-old girl “if she was mean” during an online chat that became increasingly sexualised. He also sent an explicit photo.
“He’s asking for naughty photos,” prosecutor Wayne Jackson told Carlisle Crown Court. “(The girl) was actually an undercover law enforcement officer who interacted with the defendant.”
Police then traveled to Prentice’s former home in Penrith and seized an iPhone which was forensically scanned. He initially denied any wrongdoing, Mr Jackson said, “and said someone must have in fact hacked into his account”.
Prentice later admitted two counts: attempting to get a child to view an image of sexual activity; and attempting to have sexual communication with a child. No indecent images of children were found in his possession.
Kim Whittlestone, defending, told the court: ‘Once these offenses came to light, there was a breakdown in the defendant’s marriage. He has a young child out of wedlock. They are based in the Penrith area. He moved across the border where he currently lives.
Prentice, now of Nicholson Street, Annan, was a man of good character who suffered from health problems.
“He strikes as an extremely isolated man. He lost his job because of his criminal behavior. He has only himself to blame for this,’ said Miss Whittlestone.
“As a result of the publicity surrounding his case, he lost his home.
“He’s a man who needs to open up about his offence,” she added.
Judge Nicholas Barker imposed a two-year community order that includes a pardon and 200 hours of unpaid work. He must sign the sex offender register for five years.
Judge Barker said: ‘You are a 51-year-old man and, may I say, one of a growing number of middle-aged, lonely and somewhat isolated men who appear in court after deciding that they would obtain sexual gratification by entering the Internet and seeking to interact with young people, generally women, children.
“It’s a perversion, it’s deviant and you know it.”