January 2023

Community order for paedophile caught by ‘paedophile hunters’

A paedophile told what he thought was a 14-year-old girl ‘I’m not trying to groom anyone here’.

Roberto Silva, 24, was confronted by a ‘paedophile hunter’ group Predator Closure when he arranged to meet the ‘girl’ in Oxford in June 2021.

It was then he discovered that the teenager with whom he thought he had been exchanging messages – including asking her about sex – was, in fact, an adult patrolling the internet for would-be sex offenders.

The Littlemore man was initially charged with trying to meet a child for sex after grooming her, but prosecutors dropped that charge as – by the time of the meeting – his intention was not to have sex with the child.

His barrister, Lyall Thompson, told Oxford Crown Court on Tuesday: “He did go to the meeting point in Nando’s. The real point is that it’s clear although there was discussion earlier on in the [messages] about the possibility of some sort of sexual liaison, by the time of the meeting it’s quite clear Mr Santos was not looking to have a sexual relationship at least on that day.”

Prosecutor Isabel Delamere said his conversations online with the first ‘girl’ in 2020 ended after a single day. He talked about the possibility of having sex with her, despite knowing her age. He acknowledged it was ‘wrong’ but told her ‘teen girls are nicer’.

His conversation with the second ‘teenager’, who also claimed to be 14, extended over a month in early summer 2021.

Again, he spoke to her of meeting up and having sex, saying ‘no one could know’ and it would be ‘like a secret’.

As he was older he would be ‘classed as a paedophile’, he added. “I would get into trouble because of the age difference; me being 22, you being 14.”

Ms Delamere told the court he had promised to ‘take control’ in any encounter with the girl but spoke of the difficulties of meeting at his property as it was a shared house. He also claimed: “I’m not trying to groom anyone here.”

They arranged to meet in early June, although the defendant said he did not want to be intimate with the supposed child. Rather than seeing the girl, he was met by members of the ‘hunter’ group and arrested by the police.

Mitigating, Mr Thompson said his client had mental health difficulties, with a report prepared for the court by the defendant’s psychiatrist.

It was hinted that Silva embarked on his illegal conversations with children online after finding himself romantically unsuccessful his contemporaries.

“He understands in future he has to persevere with people around his own age and there isn’t an easy option,” Mr Thompson said. Finding himself in a courtroom had been a ‘salutary experience’ for the young man.

Silva, of Morrell Crescent, Littlemore, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to attempted sexual communication with a child.

Imposing a three year community order, Judge Ian Pringle KC said: “These are serious offences. I hope you understand now quite how serious they are.” As part of the order, Silva must complete sex offender treatment programmes and abide by a sexual harm prevention order for five years.