June 2020

Paedophile who sent sexual photos to ’14-year-old girl’ caught in undercover bust

A man has been jailed after the ’14-year-old girl’ he groomed and tried to meet up with turned out to be an adult.

Mark Harper, 34, sent the ‘girl’ pictures of his genitalia, offered to take her shopping and even suggested booking a hotel room with her.

In the messages to the ‘girl’, Harper offered to drive from Peterborough to Durham – a journey of at least 180 miles – to meet her.

Before the meeting, the ‘girl’ – who was actually a man working undercover to expose offences – reported the messages to the police, and Harper was arrested two days later.

On Friday (June 26), Harper was sentenced to 15 months in prison and placed on the sex offenders’ register for 10 years.

The messages, which were sent on chat forums, spanned 17 days and began on September 20, 2018.

He asked her sexually explicit questions, asked if he could watch her undress or get changed and even supplied his work mobile number.

Harper, of Bodesway, Orton Malborne, Peterborough, continued to message the ‘girl’ despite being reminded she was only 14.

On October 5, Harper said he would drive to Durham after the weekend, arranged a shop to meet the ‘girl’ at and said again how much he wanted to watch her get changed.

Harper was arrested on suspicion of engaging in sexual communication with a child. Electronic devices were seized from him on his arrest.

In a police interview, Harper admitted sending the messages but claimed he thought he was talking to an adult pretending to be a child – describing it as “like a game.”

He told officers he had no intention of actually travelling to meet the person he was chatting to, but did admit to sending explicit images to the ‘girl’ despite knowing she could have been 14.

Examinations of the devices seized from Harper’s address revealed indecent images; three of category B and six of category C.

Harper was re-arrested in February last year and despite initial denials, eventually admitted responsibility for all of the content and taking two of the category B images himself.

Harper pleaded guilty to taking indecent images of a child, engaging in sexual communication with a child and two counts of making indecent images of a child.

Harper was sentenced at Peterborough Crown Court on Friday (June 26) where he was given 15 months in prison. He was placed on the sex offenders’ register for 10 years and was also handed a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) for the same time period.