THIS is the moment vigilante paedophile hunters snared an internet predator who was trying to groom teenage girls.
Lee Middleton was jailed for three years yesterday after he was twice caught by “stings” when he planned to meet children after chatting to them online.
In fact the 40-year-old was communicating with members of a group called Stinson Hunter, which uses “decoys” posing as teenagers to target potential abusers.
Matthew Walsh, prosecuting, said Middleton, of Moorbank, Blackbird Leys, Oxford, used the Bandoo messenger service to try to groom who he thought were two girls during August last year.
He told Judge Ian Pringle the defendant first believed he was in contact with a 13-year-old named Jodie – sending pictures of himself naked and arranging a meeting in Nuneaton.
But when he arrived, Middleton was confronted and filmed by the vigilante group, as well as being arrested after they passed evidence to the police.In a video posted on YouTube he is asked by the group if he thinks what he’s done is acceptable and tells them: “No comment, I’ve got nothing to say to you mate.”
Mr Walsh told the court while on bail the former warehouse worker tried to meet another girl, who he thought was 15, but he was again fooled by the vigilantes, who contacted the police.
At an earlier hearing Middleton pleaded guilty to two counts of attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming and one count of attempting to incite a child to engage in sexual activity.
Passing sentence, Judge Pringle said while there had not been a victim in the case, he told the defendant this was “not for want of you trying”.
He made Middleton subject to a sexual offences prevention order and said he will be on the sex offenders’ register for at least 10 years.
After the sentencing, group founder Stinson Hunter said Middleton’s sentence was the best he had seen out of the 12 convictions the group had been responsible for since January last year.
He said: “When he turned up, he was unrepentant. He is a dangerous guy and that’s a really good result. I am really quite chuffed. It is the best result we have had.”
The Warwickshire-based man added: “He got in touch with me. We set up a profile as a girl and then we wait for people to message us.
“In Lee Middleton’s case we told him how old we were and he carried on talking. He did say some explicit things and sent indecent images.”
He said the group had spoken to Oxfordshire men online while posing as underage girls. But he said Middleton was the only one to have agreed to meet up.
He added: “The internet is a dangerous place and parents need to watch what their children are doing. These people are out there and they will try to take advantage of your children.”
CATCHING ONLINE PREDATORS
STINSON Hunter’s Facebook account has more than 124,000 people following his work in catching online predators.
On the page, he says: “I work online with a group of friends catching people who attempt to either meet or groom underage children for sex.”
Mr Hunter, who has now changed his name, started talking to men posing as an underage girl in 2009 as an experiment.
But he said he started arranging meetings and filming them when he realised how bad the problem was.
He says he never approaches anyone online – he and his team set up a profile and wait for people to contact them.
He also says the men are immediately told how old the girl is.
Michael Parkes, 45, was confronted and filmed by Stinson Hunter in May last year and killed himself after police questioned him.
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