Northampton man sacked by Home Office convicted of grooming after vigilante sting

Gary Hodgkiss was snared by an online group in June
Gary Hodgkiss was snared by an online group in June

A former Home Office advisor from Northampton has been sentenced for grooming charges after he was snared by vigilantes in June.

Gary Hodgkiss, 48, was filmed as he arrived in a Manchester car park in June to meet what he believed to be a 12-year-old girl.

The sting, which cost Hodgkiss his transition manager job with the Government department, was live streamed by online group Dark Light.

Home office advisor from Northampton filmed in sting while allegedly trying to meet 12-year-old girl
During the video, the gang of vigilantes tell Hodgkiss that he messaged them on his way to the car park "about getting a hotel room and spending a night" with a 12-year-old girl.

He has now been convicted of grooming an under 16-year-old, of attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child and of possessing indecent images of a child.

At Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court, Judge Bernadette Baxter handed Hodgkiss a sentence of 20 months suspended for two years.

He will be on the sex offenders register for 10 years and was given a sexual harm prevention order.

A spokesman from the child protection charity the NSPCC said: "Hodgkiss went to great lengths to meet someone he thought was just 12 and his sickening actions are an all too familiar example of online grooming.

"We need robust action to keep our children safe in the digital world and the NSPCC is calling for tough measures to compel social media companies to act."

Speaking after Hodgkiss' arrest in June, a Home Office spokesperson said: "We are in the process of terminating this individual’s contract with immediate effect.

"The Home Office expects the highest standards of personal integrity from external contractors.

"It would not be appropriate to comment further on an ongoing police investigation."