A man in his sixties from London drove to County Durham in a work van in the hope of meeting a 13-year-old girl for a sexual liaison, a court heard.

Peter Francis Allison, who had booked a budget hotel room in Washington for the night, then drove to meet the girl at the arranged rendezvous spot, in a County Durham town centre car park.

Durham Crown Court was told that they did briefly meet, outside a discount store, shortly after 5pm on November 11, 2022.

Shaun Dodds, prosecuting, said the girl spoke to Allison near to his van and followed him to the vehicle, getting in for a few moments.The Northern Echo: Peter Allison jailed for a total of 23 months for child sex offences

Mr Dodds said there was a suggestion that Allison offered the girl £50 to get into the vehicle, but the court heard that the defendant denied making the financial “bribe”.

The girl was then seen on cctv in the car park walking from the van, having used the excuse she needed to speak to her grandmother.

Mr Dodds said although Allison followed her, the girl went into a shop, and the defendant “gave up”, returning to his van before driving to the hotel in Washington, alone.

He stayed there that night and the following day drove back to London, but thanks to number plate recognition, his work van was traced and he was arrested and interviewed a week later.

The now 64-year-old defendant, of Kew Green, Richmond upon Thames, was charged with meeting a child following grooming.

Although he indicated a not guilty plea when he appeared before magistrates in Newton Aycliffe, in December, Allison did admit the offence at a plea hearing on January 11.

The court heard he first contacted the victim by Snapchat in October 2022 and it was soon made clear she was of a young age.

Mr Dodd said Allison used an alias, giving her the name of the comedian Frank Skinner during their conversations, and although there were thought to have been a large number of messages, they were automatically deleted and Allison’s mobile phone was never recovered.

When she gave her statement to police the girl said Allison had asked her for a photo of her wearing her school uniform, which she sent him.

As the tenor of the chats became more sexualised, he also asked her for a picture of her breasts, which she provided him with, but she refused his further requests to send him any more intimate images.

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The court was told that Allison also fell to be sentenced for a second offence, committed in July last year, at a time he was “under investigation” for the County Durham incident.

He became involved in online “chats” with a profile, unknown by him to have been posted by police child protection officers in the West Midlands, purporting to be a 12-year-old girl.

Although he was soon informed the person he believed he was messaging was only 12, he exchanged sexualised messages and asked for images of the “girl”, before also suggesting a meeting, prior to his arrest for that offence.

He was charged with being an adult attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child and pleaded guilty at a hearing before magistrates in Coventry, in the West Midlands, on January 15.

That case was sent to be sentenced along with the County Durham offence at the crown court today (Tuesday February 20).

Allison appeared via video link from Durham Prison, where he has been on remand.

Josh Normanton, for Allison, told the court: “Plainly it’s appalling online offending and nothing I say is intended to diminish from that.”

Mr Normanton said the defendant has only one previous conviction for an unrelated offence dating back some time now.

He said following the defendant’s marriage break-up and a family bereavement, his mental health had suffered.

Described as a “popular man” with colleagues at work, Mr Normanton said Allison’s recent offending was, “remarkably out of character”.

He said the defendant has been living near a depot from where he works doing part-time driving.

But he said the offending, for which he now answers, has, “ruined his relationship” with his three adult children.

Judge Nathan Adams said, having booked the hotel room, the defendant, “clearly did expect some sexual activity with this 13-year-old girl”.

The judge said the girl has her vulnerabilities of which the defendant would have been unaware.

But, as a result, the judge said she has suffered ongoing mental health difficulties “trying to come to terms with what happened.”

Judge Adams said “notwithstanding” the fact the defendant was being investigated for the initial offence he went back online and tried to arrange further sexual communication with what he believed was a girl of similar young age.

The judge imposed an 18-month prison sentence for the County Durham offence, but added a further five months for the matter sent from the West Midlands.

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Describing the defendant’s behaviour as, “extremely concerning”, planning and willing to commit such offending, he made the sentences consecutive, making a total 23-month jail term.

Allison was also made subject of registration as a sex offender plus prohibitions over contact with anyone under the age of 16 and his use of the internet, under the terms of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order.

Both orders will run for the next ten years.