August 2022

Paedophile hunters snare Colchester man in online investigation

A sex offender was filmed on his doorstep by civilian paedophile hunters as he labelled his “relentless” online pursuit of a 13-year-old girl as “just a bit of fun”.

Denis Turner, 29, thought he was engaged in a six-week-long sex chat with a young girl.

In fact he was talking to a member of the Child Online Safety Team, who had set up a decoy social media profile to snare paedophiles.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard Turner asked the decoy “if she would be a bad girl” and repeatedly warned her not to tell her parents about their conversation.

Gary Rutter, prosecuting, said: “He would regularly ask her if her parents knew she was talking to him and would suggest on numerous occasions that she delete the inbox so she didn’t get told off.”

Questions about her school, her brothers and her sisters were interspersed with requests for her to “play with herself”.

He said: “I bet you have a little bum”, adding: “If I were there, would you let me slap your bum?”.

Turner also sent pictures of his penis to the decoy.

The paedophile hunters visited Turner at his Colchester home following the conversation, which unfolded from June to July 2019.

The confrontation was filmed and posted on Facebook, with Turner saying “it was just a bit of fun”.

Turner, now of Ibstock Close, Dagenham, was arrested and later admitted one count of attempting to incite a child to engage in sexual activity.

The case faced significant delay, in part due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and he appeared for sentence on Thursday.

Judge Mary Loram QC said: “Your pursuit of sexual conversation with a child was relentless.

“Your focus was purely on getting sexual images from her, sending her sexual images of yourself and trying to get her to masturbate.

“You paid no heed at all to the clear evidence and repeated protestations of total sexual naivety from the child.”

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The judge said Turner had been “on and on” at the decoy for weeks, adding there was “inevitably” an element of grooming involved.

She added: “You tried to get her to conceal evidence, significantly by suggesting it was her who would get into trouble if she didn’t do so.

“That was manipulative and would have been very frightening to a real 13-year-old girl.”

The court heard Turner told the author of a pre-sentence report he had no sexual interest in a 13-year-old girl.

“I reject that, that’s obviously not true,” said Judge Loram.

“What you have had is a less than happy upbringing.

“However, I do not see the link between that – sadly all too common in this court – and your sexual incitement of a 13-year-old girl.”

She said the “real mitigation” in his case is the three-year gap between the offending and sentence.

“You have not re-offended in that time and I accept, without question, the delay in sentence will have had its impact on you and will have created a lot of stress,” she said.

Turner was sentenced to 27 months imprisonment and ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register for ten years.

He will remain the subject of a five-year sexual harm prevention order.