A MAN with a previous conviction for sexually communicating with underage girls, briefly lapsed back to his former ways after making contact with what he was told was a 12-year-old female.

Durham Crown Court heard that Darren Thompson had not gone looking to communicate with an underage girl when he accessed an adult internet chat site on his mobile phone on January 13.

But having engaged in chat with someone describing herself as, ‘Bored 18-year-old Tyne and Wear’, the user informed him she was a 12-year-old.

Uzma Khan, prosecuting, said, unknown to Thompson, he was actually ‘chatting’ to an undercover police officer.

He quickly moved the messaging onto snapchat and was sent an image portraying a 12-year-old girl, but he responded by sending intimate images of himself, one after having apparently performed a sex act.

Miss Khan said within days of the chat it was found Thompson had deleted the account, in breach of an indefinite Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO), imposed after he received a suspended prison sentence for his previous offending, at Durham Crown Court in 2016.

The terms of the order prohibited him from deleting his internet history.

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Thompson was arrested and interviewed, and made admissions over his online activity, at a time when he said he was, “feeling low”.

Miss Khan said Thompson told police he just wanted to communicate with anyone, and, “it could have been a child, or anyone”, but he accepted he continued even when told of the supposed age of the “girl” he believed he was chatting to, on January 13.

He told police he regretted it and told them he wanted counselling to address his sexual attraction to children.

The 36-year-old defendant, of Dorset Crescent, Moorside, Consett, admitted attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child, and breaching a SHPO.

Chris Morrison, in mitigation, said Thompson was using an open forum and his intention was, “not to target a minor.”

Having become clear he was chatting with what he thought was a 12-year-old he felt “deeply ashamed” and deleted the conversation and the material on his phone before police, “got in touch”.

“There was no attempt to cover any of his other internet activity.”

Mr Morrison said, “on any objective view, this was a victimless crime”, which could not be considered, “persistent”.

He added: “It was an aberration, a foolish and self-destructive act.”

Imposing a 14-month prison sentence, Judge James Adkin told Thompson: “The problem is you seem unable to prevent yourself from behaving in this way.”

The existing SHPO will remain in place, but Thompson is now subject to registration as a sex offender for life.

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