May 2022

Paedophile caught with children’s underwear in his boot during meet with ‘girl, 11’

A pervert drove to Widnes with children’s underwear in the boot to meet an “11-year-old girl”

Ethan Birch, 20, turned up at the car park of the DCBL Stadium on Lower House Lane, Widnes, on Friday, January 21, with “knickers and crop tops” and a change of boxer shorts for himself after 10 days of messages online including sexual incitement and sending obscene images of himself.

Unbeknown to Birch, of Little Lowes Meadow, Lowton, Warrington, the supposed child was really an adult decoy out to snare paedophiles preying on the young online.

Liverpool Crown Court heard on Thursday how Birch, first contacted “Izzy” on the “Chat Avenue” social media platform – aimed age range of “nine to 19” years – before the conversation moved to WhatsApp.

Izzy told him she was 11 years old and in foster care, but this did not deter paedophile Birch who asked her not to block him if he divulged his age.

He then told her his name, how old he was, where he lived and his occupation using his own details and would later share his phone number.

After initially asking her “how are you?” he told her she was “gorgeous” and asked if she “loved” him

As well as offering to help with her maths homework, he proceeded to tell her “I want to do something naughty together” and asked to see her underwear – which became a theme as he made “numerous” demands for such pictures despite her refusals.

The sexual nature of his messages continued to escalate, with him sharing a selfie of him in his boxer shorts.

Mr Jones said that as the grooming continued, Birch used “manipulative language” such as telling her not to tell anyone about him and asking her “do you want to make me happy?”

He began asking intimate personal questions and tried to “instruct” her on how to perform a sex act on herself, saying she was his “girlfriend and that meant she would have to show him her underwear”.

When she asked why he was “asking” her, university student Birch replied: “I’m telling you because you’re my girlfriend.”

He then sent a picture of his naked genitals and a video of him performing a sex act on himself.

Birch said he “loved her” and would “never leave her” before switching to making sexual requests including of a penetrative nature.

“Izzy” told him: “Please don’t ask, it’s scary to do that.”

They began talking about meeting at McDonald’s in Widnes.

Despite a moment of apparent contrition when he said they couldn’t meet because of “how wrong his actions have been” and he “shouldn’t be talking like this to anybody under 18”, he reverted to form and pressed on with a plan to meet in the car park of “Widnes rugby league club”.

When Birch arrived, adults from a group called “Cobra UK” confronted Birch and rang Cheshire Police, who arrived and arrested him.

Mr Jones said officers searched the boot of his car and found “girl’s underwear, I understand ages 12-14: some pairs of knickers and crop tops as well as a clean pair of underwear that appeared to be his own”.

Birch gave “no comment” answers in police interview but later pleaded guilty at the first opportunity to 10 charges: five counts of attempting to cause a child to engage in sexual activity, two of attempting to cause a child to watch a sexual act, attempting to meet a child following grooming, attempted sexual communication with a child, and attempting to cause a child to engage in sexual communication.

Judge Brian Cummings, QC, questioned how that could happen given the sentencing ranges available for the most serious of the counts far exceeded the two-year maximum to allow a non-immediate term, citing recent case law that only granted a “small” reduction for grooming offences involving adult decoys that had progressed so far.

The judge made largely technical summing-up remarks and sentenced Birch to four years and eight months in a young offenders institute, and placed him on the sex offenders register with a Sexual Harm Prevention Order to run indefinitely, i.e. for life pending no successful application to lift the restrictions

Judge Cummings said Birch believed he had already incited the “girl” to engage in sexual activity before being caught.

Birch, who appeared via videolink from prison for the hearing, must also pay a statutory surcharge