A SCHOOLTEACHER who fell for a vigilante group’s sting, believing he was chatting online with a 15-year-old girl, had behaved in a “thoroughly despicable” way, a judge said. 

The fake profile of the girl was set up by the Cost Child Safety Team, when John Lewis Lane, 45, began communicating with “her”, Durham Crown Court, sitting in Newcastle, was told. 

The father-of-three suggested she show sexual behaviour. On June 11, he was confronted by vigilantes at his then home in Shotton Colliery, and “detained” until police officers arrived to arrest him. 

Passing sentence Judge Ray Singh said: “You were hitherto, not only a man of good character, but a man who held a responsible position within the teaching profession for many many years.

“I very much doubt you will ever be able to teach again or have any real contact with young children again – and that is of your own making.” 

He added: “Within a handful of messages you were told she was 15 years of age. . . rather than stop you, it fuelled your behaviour to the extent that you were encouraging and requesting images from her. You were then also encouraging her to show sexual behaviour through a video call.”

He added: “There was talk of school. You are a school teacher. This is thoroughly despicable behaviour.

Imposing a six month prison sentence, suspended for two years, Judge Singh said he took into account Lane’s previous good character, full and frank admissions, and that ultimately no images of a sexual nature were exchanged.

Sarah Malkinson, prosecuting, said the Child Safety Team contacted Lane through a decoy on the Skout app. When “she” said she was 15, Lane asked if she was in bed and at one point he sent her a picture of his leg.

Ms Malkinson said: “There were conversations about dressing for school and he asked if she’d delete her messages so her mother would not know.” 

Lane’s conversation then became more explicit, the court was told.

Christine Egerton, mitigating, said: “The defendant truly accepts his guilt, because he made full and frank admissions in interviews. He has made no attempt to minimise what he had done.”

She said at the time of the offence, Lane had a “fixation with chatting on chat applications”. 

Ms Egerton added: “Over the years he has carried out good work in the community with his church and has been a school governor.” 

Lane, whose marriage is over, was a teacher who worked with children aged from 11 to 14. He was made redundant two years ago, but continued to do supply work. He has been suspended.
Lane, now of Teddington, who pleaded guilty to attempting sexual communications with a child on June 11, was made subject of a 30-day rehabilitation activity requirement and to sex offender registration and a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for seven years.