A determined mum launched her own undercover operation to root out paedophiles by posing as a child online.
Housewife and mum-of-three Sarah Doherty snared Arthur Douglas, 53, of Westgate, Morecambe, by posing as a 13-year-old on a friendship website, after he arranged to meet the ‘child’ at Morecambe’s Arndale Centre.
Preston Crown Court heard he had messaged a profile set up by the mum, which had stated she was an 18-year-old girl, but continued to correspond with her even when she revealed she was 13.
David Clarke, prosecuting, said: “This case has a slightly unusual beginning insofar as its not a police investigation.
“She explains over the last few years she has become concerned about paedophiles preying on children online and decided to do something about it.
“Last summer she decided to set up a decoy, a pretend child, and that profile would be posted on various friendship websites.
“She had one run with that where she posted a pic of an apparent 14-year-old - the man, not this defendant, was not prosecuted but undeterred she resumed the activity.
She created a false impression of a child posted on various friendship websites. The purported age on the website said 18.
“Contact was first made by the defendant in May this year.
“On the same day, the apparent child of 18 made it clear she was only 13 and there were some conversations about age difference.
The court heard by the following day he was asking “Do you fancy me?”
Matters escalated over the next few days a mobile number was given to him and he was asking lewd questions.
He did not turn up to their first arranged meeting on May 31, but messaged her from a different number on June 10 and agreed to meet the teen in the resort’s Arndale Centre.
But once there he was met by Mrs Doherty and her husband who called the police.
Judge Jonathan Gibson said: “You met the member of public concerned you were challenged. You admitted you were the person who had spoken to the child and when asked if you were going to have sex with her you said: ‘Maybe, possibly.’
“It is a concern that at 53 years old you were even contemplating having intercourse with a girl of 13.”
Douglas, who admitted attempting to meet a child following grooming, sobbed as the judge suspended his eight month sentence for two years and imposed a rehabilitation requirement and 10 year sexual harm prevention order.
Defending, Andrew Nuttall, who revealed Douglas was the sole carer for his elderly father, said: “He has not tried to extricate himself from this position.
“He is deeply ashamed and utterly terrified - its been some time since I’ve seen a more terrified defendant
“He has no previous convictions and did not seek an underage girl. He has been a very lonely man and that’s not to be underestimated. He’s not a predatory paedophile.
“There isn’t actually a victim.”
He must pay £150 costs.