August 2022

Essex father tried to talk to 12-year-old girl online

A father who was caught engaging in a sexually-charged conversation with a decoy posing as a 12-year-old girl was also found to be a part of a group chat which encouraged dads to share pictures of their daughters.

Shamed Richard Pickford, 44, said his actions were “madness which defied all logic” when he was interviewed following his arrest in August last year.

The father-of-two, of Dorchester End, Colchester, contacted a child female profile online, engaging in a month-long chat which progressed to explicit communications

He thought he was chatting with a 12-year-old girl named Tilly, but in reality he was sending sick messages to a law enforcement officer.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard after his arrest, police found group chats on an application on his iPhone.

Dingle Clark, prosecuting, said: “One of which had the rules of the group, which said you had to share images of your daughter and if you didn’t do so, you would be removed from the group.”

Indecent images of children were also found on the phone, with one video depicting the sexual abuse of a child.

Judge David Turner QC said four images at the most serious Category A were found, alongside one Category A video.

Images at Category B and Category C were also uncovered.

Judge Turner said: “To my mind, the ugly feature of that is this was a ‘Kik’ application, for people committed to producing material involving their daughters.

“That is, in my judgement, a particularly despicable angle not only into which you allowed yourself to be drawn, but where ironically, had things progressed further, it’s not impossible you might even have gone as far as sharing information about your own daughter.”

Pickford admitted attempting to incite a child to engage in sexual activity, attempted sexual communication with a child and three counts of possessing indecent images of children. 

Judge Turner added: “this is a shameful day for you and a distressing day for your family.

“My hope is that by reason of all I have read about you and through what seems to be a fairly full recognition of the folly of what you did, this need not become the defining moment for your life.”

The court heard Pickford had already taken steps to seek help to address his offending and had expressed “some genuine remorse”.

Judge Turner deemed the offender to be at a low risk of reoffending.

He told Pickford: “At least when you were interviewed, at an early stage you made full admissions.

“You accepted responsibility and you described, rightly in my judgement, this as a moment of madness.

“It defied all logic. You had, I accept, no plan to meet any child and you saw this as part of an absurd middle-aged fantasy, which in some inexplicable way made you feel good about yourself.

“That I confess I struggle to understand.

“Suffice to say the probation officer rightly identifies aspects of predatory, manipulative behaviour and indeed a hint of grooming.”

Pickford was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months. 

He must complete a programme for internet-based sex offenders, 180 hours of unpaid work, a 15-day rehabilitation activity requirement and £340 in prosecution costs. 

He will sign the sex offender’s register for ten years and will remain subject to a ten-year sexual harm prevention order.