A BRICKLAYER who thought he was agreeing to meet with a 14-year-old girl for a sexual encounter was actually chatting to a member of a paedophile hunting group, a court has heard.

Raymond Matthews, from Peterlee, has been jailed for comments made during an online conversation he believed he was having with a “Jessica” – a 14-year-old girl from Washington, on Wearside.

But the profile was actually a fake one set up by Guardians of the North, a group which aims to root out paedophiles.

Loading article content

Matthews, 55, pleaded guilty to two charges of attempting to cause a child to engage in sexual activity and one of attempting to arrange a meeting with a child for the purposes of sexual activity.

Jane Waugh, prosecuting, read a transcript of the conversation to Durham Crown Court, which included an invitation by Matthews to pick “Jessica” up from her nan’s house at 5.30pm the following day so they could have sex.

At around 7pm the next day, members of the Guardians of the North visited Matthews at his home with police, who seized his mobile phone.

The phone had been used to make seven internet searches looking for sexual content involving “very young” girls.

The court heard the following month, in July, Matthews was on bail when a profile using a picture of the defendant was used to get in touch with another fake Guardians of the North profile – this time for a 14-year-old called Lauren.

He was immediately recognised by the Guardians of the North and reported to the police.

William Byrne, mitigating, said: “This is quite an ordinary man who carries on his daily life as best he can and supports his daughter and family members.

“This has caused him acute embarrassment and a great deal of shame. He regrets the shame he has brought on his family and himself."

Adding that there was no victim in this case and that the defendant had already been in custody for six weeks, he added: “This disgusting act, which he readily admits, should be marked in a manner which does not demand that he serves any future time in custody.”

Judge Christopher Prince rejected the argument and sentenced him to six months in prison.

He said: “I have no doubt that had this been a 14-year-old and you had the opportunity you would have engaged in that act.

“That couldn’t occur because this was a fake profile. It’s clear from the search terms you have a sexual interest in children and young people.

“This was quite determined and considered behaviour.”

Matthews, of Whickham Street, will also appear on the sexual offenders register and is the subject of a sexual harm prevention order.