July 2023

Convicted sex offender was watching porn on a phone he wasn’t allowed to have and using a dating app

A convicted sex offender who was previously exposed by a paedophile hunting team was caught watching porn on a phone he wasn’t allowed to have and for using a dating app called ‘WhatsFlirt’.

Stewart Heather, 48, was found to be living at his supposedly ex girlfriend’s house in June, despite telling police officers the previous month that the relationship was over.

There was a two-year-old living at the woman’s property.

Social services were unaware that Heather, who was subject to an eight month suspended jail sentence for sending explicit messages with what he thought was a 13-year-old girl, was in the house with the woman and the child.

He had not informed the police of his change of address.

On Thursday (July 27) defence brief Bethan Chichester said her client had not fully understood the terms of the sexual harm prevention order imposed when he was given the suspended sentence last year.

At the time of the first offences the couple had split up and, in using the ‘WhatsFlirt’ app, he was ‘simply trying to lift his spirits’.

Heather subsequently moved in with the woman in order to ‘assist her’, as she was struggling with her mental health, the court heard.

Ms Chichester said Heather was not the ‘regular sort of offender’ of the type usually in front of the courts for child sex offences.

He had been candid in telling her that when he embarked on the behaviour that previously saw him hauled before the courts he was ‘bingeing on cocaine and amphetamine’ and ‘turned to chatting to people online’.

The defendant was deeply ashamed of his actions, the barrister said.

Earlier, prosecutor Nick Ferrari told the court that the police officers responsible for managing Heather in the community visited him at his caravan on May 11.

Then, he claimed to have abstained from viewing pornography, was no longer in a relationship and was ‘doing better’.

He claimed that an Alcatel mobile phone found by the officers and that had not been registered with them was a temporary replacement, his having recently broken.

Mr Ferrari said the phone had been used to look at pornography and to set up an account on ‘WhatsFlirt’.

In mid-June, the police returned to Heather’s caravan in order to conduct a formal interview about the fact he had breached his sexual harm prevention order by having the unregistered mobile and setting up a new social media account.

He was not in the mobile phone. Eventually, they tracked him down to his former partner’s property.

There, they also found a Kindle device that had been used to view pornography and registered with a new email address in Heather’s name.

On the device was a conversation between Heather and his partner in which he appeared to recognise that he would be in trouble if the police caught him living at her property.

Heather, formerly of Schofield Avenue, Witney, pleaded guilty to breaching his sexual harm prevention order and the sex offender notification requirements.

Sending him to prison for 26 months, Judge Michael Gledhill KC said: “I want to send a very clear message out from this court that anybody with your perverted desire to look at filthy pictures, sexual pictures, on the internet or to engage with children for sexual purposes will be dealt with very, very harshly by the courts to deter people like you from doing what you’ve done.”

December 2022

Suspended sentence for Witney man caught by ‘paedophile hunters’

A Witney man was snared in a ‘hunter’ group’s exposure – sending explicit messages to what he thought was a 13-year-old girl called Layla on Valentine’s Day.

Stewart Heather, 47, began sending messages to the ‘girl’s’ social media profile in January 2019, when the man operating the decoy account confirmed that she was 13 years of age.

She sent over pictures of herself and the older man said ‘she’ was beautiful, Oxford Crown Court heard.

By early February, he had asked for pictures of the girl in her pyjamas. And little more than a week later, on Valentine’s Day, the tone of his messages to her became more sexualised.

He asked in coded terms whether she had performed sex acts on herself. After being told that she had not and she was only 13, he sent her what a judge described as ‘graphic instructions’.

Later that month, on February 21, Heather asked ‘Layla’ whether she had acted on those instructions. Told that she had not, he ‘encouraged’ her.

He questioned the girl further, asking whether she would let him touch her if he was with her.

‘Layla’ asked him if it was ‘okay’ to do anything with her, given she was only 13. He replied that it was not okay, but he would ‘kiss it better’.

The man operating the decoy account passed the messages to others in the vigilante group.

And at the end of February, two members of the organisation visited Heather at home – confronting him with the messages and videoing their encounter with him.

He was compliant with the pair and, later, was equally cooperative with the police.

Officers found a small amount of drugs for his own personal use at his home during their visit in February 2019.

Heather, of Schofield Avenue, Witney, pleaded guilty in October to attempted sexual communication with a child, causing or inciting a child to engage in penetrative sexual activity and possession of cocaine and amphetamines. He had no relevant previous convictions

Sentencing him to eight months’ imprisonment suspended for two years, Recorder Paul Reid said it was ‘quite extraordinary’ that Heather had got involved in the offending – ‘knowing perfectly well that this sort of disgusting behaviour is illegal and that it carries custodial sentences’.

He said: “I consider that this offence is so serious that only a custodial sentence can be justified.

“But I do take into consideration the remorse that you have expressed, the prospect of rehabilitation and my view that you will not commit any sort of offence like this again.

“If you do commit any sort of offence of any nature which is punishable with imprisonment within the next two years, which is the period during which I suspend this sentence, you will be sentenced not only for any further offence but this suspended sentence will be activated to run consecutively.”

As part of the sentence, Heather was ordered to do 120 hours of unpaid work, up to 25 rehabilitation activity requirement days and the Horizon sex offender treatment programme.

He was ordered to abide by a 10 year sexual harm prevention order and will be on the sex offender register for the same period of time. He must pay £670 in costs to the Crown Prosecution Service.