July 2022

Penrith man, 51, caught requesting ‘naughty pics’ from girl

A man requested “naughty pics” online from what he thought was a 13-year-old girl — but was actually chatting with an undercover operative.

Stephen Prentice, 51, now of Nicholson Street, Annan was told by a judge he was the latest in an “increasing number” of middle aged men to find themselves in the dock for sexual chat with children.

In early May last year, Prentice asked what he thought was a 13-year-old girl “if she was naughty” during online chat which became increasingly sexualised. He also sent an explicit photo.

“He does ask for naughty pics,” prosecutor Wayne Jackson told Carlisle Crown Court. “(The girl) was in fact an undercover law enforcement operative who interacted with the defendant.”

Police later went to Prentice’s former home in Penrith and seized an iPhone which was forensically analysed. He initially denied wrongdoing, said Mr Jackson, “and said someone must have in effect, hacked his account”.

Prentice later admitted two charges: attempting to cause a child to look at an image of sexual activity; and attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child. No indecent images of children were found in his possession.

Judge Nicholas Barker imposed a two-year community order comprising rehabilitation and 200 hours’ unpaid work. He must sign the sex offenders’ register for five years.

Judge Barker said: “You are a 51-year-old man and, can I say, one of an increasing number of middle aged, lonely and somewhat isolated men who appear before the courts having decided that they will gain sexual gratification from going in the internet and seeking to engage with young, typically female people, children.

“It is a perversion, it is deviant and you know it to be so.”