Man caught in sting to catch online paedophiles

Sue Gethin, prosecuting at Cheltenham Magistrates Court yesterday, Monday (March 20), said that John Moth, of Russet Avenue, St John’s Priory, Lechlade, Gloucestershire, was trapped when he attempted to communicate on social media with under-age girls who were in fact police decoys.

Moth went on social media during the Autumn of 2019 to comverse with an under age ‘girl’ called Bella and discussed sexual activity.

During late spring of 2021 Moth contacted ‘Sophia,’ another police decoy posing as a teenage girl under the age of 16 and discussed sexual activity.

The magistrates were told that on both occasions the internet address connected to the social media accounts was at Moth’s home.

Moth admitted that between November 4 and December 12, 2019 he attempted to engage in sexual communication with a child aged under 16 for his own sexual gratification.

He also pleaded guilty to attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child between April 21, and June 25, 2021 for his own sexual gratification.

Presiding Justice Susan Bruckel told Moth: “It is the magistrates’ decision that your offending crosses the custody threshold and therefore you sentence will be a prison term of 28 weeks.

“However, there is a prospect of rehabilitation, so this sentence will be suspended for two years. This is a very serious offence.

“It is noted that this sentence has been reduced to reflect that this was an ‘attempt’ as no actual underage girls were involved, as the girls were decoy police officers.

“You are skating on thin ice and your life will be hugely scrutinised from now on.”

The magistrates ordered that Moth attend 35 rehabilitation activity days and that he pay costs of £135 and a victim services surcharge of £122.

Moth was also made subject to a sexual harm prevention order for 10 years and must register as a sex offender for the same time period.

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