June 2020

South Yorkshire pervert snared after bid to meet “underage girl” decoy

A South Yorkshire man who was duped into trying to meet one of three “decoy” underage girls he groomed online was later confronted by self-styled paedophile hunters outside his parents’ home.

Damien Kelly was followed after he drove home from a Tesco car park in Barnsley, on April 1, 2018, where he’d arranged to meet a 14-year-old “girl” named April, set up by the One Reason group, said prosecutor Tom Storey on Wednesday.

Around 2,500 people watched the live-stream of the confrontation on Facebook, when members of the group read out extracts of online chats between Kelly and the girl.

Sheffield Crown Court heard Kelly began chatting with “April” on the “Say Hi” dating site, on March 18, and continued to communicate after “she” revealed her age.

He also chatted to decoys named “Chelsea” and “Lacey,” who also claimed they were 14.

“He told “Chelsea” he wanted sex but not until she was ready, and if they were seen in public she could pretend to be his daughter,” said Mr Storey.

Andrew Smith, mitigating, said Kelly, who has “underlying medical conditions” and “difficulty communicating,” was “genuinely embarrassed and remorseful.”

“He believed he was communicating with children under the age of 18,” he said.

“Your Honour might take the view that there is a possibility that if this group did not get involved these offences might not have been committed.

“The police and the courts are not helped by the likes of One Reason who cover their activities in a veneer of respectability for something that is there to provide titillation for others on the internet.”

He said Kelly, had no previous convictions, was at “low risk” of committing further sexual offences.

Kelly, 39, of Reresby Crescent, Whiston, Rotherham, pleaded guilty to three counts of attempting to communicate sexually with children, and one attempt of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

Judge Michael Slater said: “You were duped by a vigilant organisation into thinking you were conversing with children under the age of 16.”

Kelly was sentenced to 12 months, suspended for two years, and a rehabilitation activity requirement of 30 days was imposed.

The judge warned Kelly he would be jailed if he re-offends