A Brackley man has been imprisoned after he attempted to groom and meet up with a 13-year-old girl online, who turned out to be an undercover police officer.
Benjamin Roberts, aged 29, of Poppyfields Way, appeared at Northampton Crown Court on Friday, June 24 after being convicted of two counts of attempting to engage in sexual communication of a child, and one count of meeting a girl under the age of 16 after grooming.
The court heard that a police officer set up a decoy profile of a 13-year-old girl on the messaging app, ‘Kik’. On March 15 2019, Roberts sent a message to the decoy, asking her: “Are you owned?” before sending two images of his penis, the court heard.
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Henry James, prosecuting, said the decoy identified herself as a 13-year-old girl and “too young” but Roberts responded, “It’s okay, I like young,” before sending a face shot of himself.
The court heard that the conversation continued for two weeks, during which time Roberts pressed the decoy on where she lived and suggested they should meet and engage in sexual acts. At one point, he asked her if there was anything she wanted to “try” and if she was allergic to latex, explaining that is what condoms are made out of.
The communication came to an end when Roberts requested the decoy profile video call him live to prove that she is real, which the police officer could not do - the court heard.
Roberts was arrested on May 2, 2019 and his phone was seized by police. No traces of the conversation were recovered but images Roberts sent to the decoy were found on his phone.
The court heard that Robert denied the offences in a police interview and claimed his only intention was to uncover fake profiles on Kik, having been deceived by a man pretending to be a woman in the past.
Pamela Brain, in mitigation, said the communication went on for a “relatively short amount of time” and there was no real child victim in this case.
The court heard that Roberts is of previous good character with no other convictions and a letter written by his mother described how he is involved with a great deal of charity work.
Ms Brain said the court should consider the impact of Roberts’ Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and depressive disorder on his level of culpability and how an immediate prison sentence could affect him.
She said: “He is a man who does not have any of the skills required to survive very well in prison. He is clearly vulnerable and someone who can be picked on and bullied and manipulated.”
The defence barrister added that Roberts was not receiving support for his ASD at the time of his offending because it was previously undiagnosed. He has since taken steps to address his rehabilitation by starting medication and seeing a specialist psychologist regularly, which he claims has given him an “enormous” understanding of himself.
Mr Recorder Edis sentenced Roberts to 28 months imprisonment, imposed a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for 10 years and placed Roberts on the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years.