Man snared by online paedophile hunting vigilantes avoids jail

Ross Smith entered not guilty pleas to four charges at Ipswich Crown Court Picture: ARCHANT

Ross Smith entered not guilty pleas to four charges at Ipswich Crown Court Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

A man snared by a self-styled paedophile hunting group in an online sting has avoided a prison sentence.

Ipswich Crown Court heard that Kyle Evans, 28, made contact with three ‘young girls’ – who turned out to decoys from vigilante group Justice for the Innocent.

Between May 1 and May 17, 2019, Evans began communicating online with ‘Chloe’ and ‘Alicia’, who he believed to be 14 years old, and ‘Nina’ – who he thought was 11.

Philip Farr, prosecuting, told the court that Evans, of Northgate, Beccles, sent explicit photographs to the decoys and the conversation was sexually explicit.

The court heard that the chats took place on adult websites and each of the decoys advertised themselves as being 18 years old before revealing their ‘real’ ages during conversations.

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Evans then arranged to meet an adult woman by the name of ‘Emma’ at a location in Hertfordshire on May 17.

But ‘Emma’ was another decoy from the vigilante group, the court heard.

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When he turned up, he was confronted by the Justice for the Innocent group and was arrested by police, who were in attendance.

In police interview, Evans told officers he was suspicious about the ages and thought he had been speaking to adults who were “messing about”.

He admitted he had been “stupid” after being told the girls’ ages and said he had no interest in young girls, Mr Farr said.

The court heard Evans had no previous convictions.

Evans previously pleaded guilty to three charges of attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child on July 9.

Andrew Thompson, defending, said Evans had already paid “high prices” for what he had done and lost his job as a scaffolder when he was charged.

Mr Thompson said his client was “working long hours” and was “looking for an adult relationship”.

“He has shown heartfelt regret and remorse for his actions,” Mr Thompson said.

Judge Rupert Overbury said: “You became socially isolated and turned to the internet to see if you could find some kind of relationship there.

“You are not, in my judgement, the typical online sexual predator that we usually encounter before these courts.”

Evans was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, with a rehabilitation programme and 25 rehabilitation activity (RA) days.

He was also made subject to a seven-year sexual harm prevention order.

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