A PAEDOPHILE who tried to lure a schoolboy to a secret meeting for sex was yesterday jailed for three years by a judge who told him: “I wish it could be indefinite.”

Paul Rhodes will serve half his sentence before being freed, but will have to sign on the sex offenders’ register for life and be the subject of a sexual offences prevention order.

A change in the law last year means judges cannot impose sentences of imprisonment for public protection (IPP) unless the crime deserves more than four years.

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An indefinite term – effectively a life sentence – means offenders can only be released when Parole Board officials are convinced they no longer pose a danger of harm.

Judge Michael Taylor told Rhodes that sentencing guidelines placed his crime of travelling to meet a child after sexual grooming at the threeyear mark.

He said he wished he could have made the Darlington man the subject of an IPP because he had “corrupted” the 13-year-old after meeting him on an internet chat site.

Rhodes, 26, befriended the boy, exchanged sexually explicit messages, sent him photographs of his penis and arranged to meet him at a cinema complex in Middlesbrough.

Teesside Crown Court heard that the boy, who has learning difficulties and suffers from health problems, had second thoughts about the plan and did not meet Rhodes. His horrified parents then discovered the chatroom he had been secretly using, found the messages and called police. Rhodes was arrested and questioned.

Rhodes, of Nelson Terrace, who was jailed for six months in 2004 for making indecent photographs of children, was also found with more illegal images.

The judge told him: “I have no doubt that young boys need protection from you and, if I was in a position to protect over a longer term, I would certainly do so.”

He added: “If I could do it, I certainly would do it.

“You pose a very significant risk of serious harm to young children now and in the future.

“I have very grave fears as to what you might do.”

Rhodes admitted communicating with and meeting a child with the intention of committing a sexual offence and 11 charges of making indecent pseudo-photographs on or before May 1 last year.

His barrister, Ian West, told the court that Rhodes was not a typical predatory paedophile who pretended to be a youngster to get close to his intended victims.

He accepted Rhodes had not “taken the warning” from his earlier conviction, but said he had been honest about his age when he joined the chat site and communicated with others.

Mother's horror at sordid plot

THE mother of the schoolboy targeted by internet paedophile Paul Rhodes last night told of her horror at discovering his sick plans.

Rhodes groomed the 13- year-old boy for days before arranging to meet him at a cinema complex for sex.

She told The Northern Echo after the case: “I shudder to think what might have happened if he had gone along and met that predator.”

She added: “I just hope that by reporting him I have saved some other kids from harm.

“It is safe to say he is a predatory paedophile. He has escalated from taking pictures of boys to wanting to meet them and have sex with them. What’s his next step?”

Judge Michael Taylor described the escalation as “serious”

and said: “I have grave fears as to what you may do in the future.”

He said it was “fortunate, indeed” that the boy became frightened and turned down Rhodes’ invitations to meet.

The family computer had been placed in the dining room to prevent abuse.

“I would be sitting feet away and had no idea I was inviting this evil into our home,” his mother said. “You think your kids are safe when they are close to you.”