Man, 40, avoids prison over sexual messages to 'child'

PUBLISHED: 08:43 24 January 2019

. Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

. Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

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A Dunmow man has avoided jail after he admitted sending explicit messages to a child.

Robert John Beedle, 40, of The Broadway, was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for two years, at Chelmsford Crown Court on Tuesday.

The court heard that between September 1, 2017, and April 19, 2018, Beedle exchanged messages with an individual who he believed to be a 13-year-old girl.

The individual was, in fact, an adult member of a ‘paedophile hunter’ group called Defending the Innocent, posing as a child.

Samantha Lowther, for the prosecution, said that during the course of their exchanges, which took place over WhatsApp, the individual said she was 13-years-old and Beedle said he was 17.

Lowther said: “[Beedle] was explaining to her what boys and girls do,” asking her if she would like to do that as well. On one occasion, Beedle said he would book a hotel room for the pair.

On April 19, Beedle was confronted by five members of Defending the Innocent, leading to his arrest. During his police interview, Beedle said he never had any intention to meet the girl. He told the police he did shift work and communicated with the girl when he worked during the night.

Beedle was “extremely scared” during the confrontation with the members of the group, Emma Davenport, defending, said.

Ms Davenport said the group arranged a “ruse” to meet Beedle and confront him, after attempts for Beedle and the girl to meet were “thwarted”, because Beedle “never made any intention to meet her”.

Police officers said their reading of the messages was that it was “simply a fantasy conversation” never meant to result in a meeting, Ms Davenport told the court.

She added: “He is a man who knows he has done wrong and is asking for help to deal with his problem.”

Addressing Beedle, Judge Charles Gratwicke said: “I accept, of course, immediately that in this case there was no child involved but that doesn’t take away from the seriousness of the offence because you did not know that was the case.”

He said that if Beedle complied with the sexual harm prevention order imposed, it would be “better for society” and better for himself, adding: “If you breach this order you will come back to me. If you hover over a telephone number or hover over a keyboard, remember me because I will remember you.”

Beedle was ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work, attend 30 days of a rehabilitation programme and complete the Horizon Programme, as well as paying court costs of £330.

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