A paedophile hunter group snared a Newent man after he had groomed a fictitious 14-year-old girl online.

Christopher Hill was trapped when he went to meet her on a train from Leeds to Gloucester in August, a court heard yesterday (November 8). 

Prosecutor Lucie Stoker told Gloucester Crown Court that 50-year-old Hill of The Tythings, Newent used social media to meet up with a young looking 14-year-old girl called Sophie, who was in fact a decoy created by a member of the Leeds-based Predator Exposure group.

“Hill had contact with ‘Sophie’ and he was told at the outset that she was aged 14," said Ms Stoker. "Her profile photograph was definitely that of a young girl. He told the girl he was aged 45. 

“Very quickly the conversation moved to WhatsApp, which is encrypted, and Hill requested that the girl send him a picture of herself. He also asked for snaps of her not wearing any clothes and some sexy photographs.

“The decoy did not send any such imagery and said that she was shy. He sent her a picture of him without his top on and a picture of his biceps. No photographs of genitalia were exchanged.”

Ms Stoker said there were “elements of grooming” from Hill, who pestered ‘Sophie’ to meet up with him.

“Arrangements were made for ‘Sophie’ to travel from Leeds to Gloucester by train. He told her he would take her to a nearby hotel. Hill went to the effort of booking the hotel, and explained that the room was for him and his daughter.

“The girl was told that she could look forward to a lot of sex in all of its forms. He was predatory in his behaviour throughout.

“Hill was intercepted by members of the Leeds group at Gloucester Railway Station on August 19 this year and subsequently arrested by police.”

Catherine Spedding, defending, said: “The main point that should be recognised is that ‘Sophie’ was not a real 14-year-old girl, but a decoy operated by a civil group. It would be wrong to sentence him as if he had met up with a real child. 

Hill admitted attempting to have sexual communication with a child between August 6 and 19, for the purpose of sexual gratification of a girl under the age of 16; attempting to facilitate a child sex offence engage in sexual activity with 14 year old girl that involved in penetration; and attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming.

The judge, Recorder James Watson KC, sentenced him to three years and 11 months in prison and subjected him to the terms of a 20 year sexual harm prevention order which limits his use of the internet and life-long sex offender registration. 

The judge also barred Hill from working with children and vulnerable adults in the future.

“I’ve no doubt that had this been a real 14-year-old you would have carried out what you proposed,” the judge said. “Your actions were thwarted by the fact you were intercepted and because Sophie was not a real child.”