Sheffield Crown Court heard how Steven Coulton, aged 36, engaged in online sexual conversations in Sheffield with undercover police officers who had set up three fake, decoy profiles purporting to be young girls.
Judge Roger Thomas QC told Coulton: “This 16 count indictment shows a very dark and unpleasant side of your character because this 16 count indictment shows your interest in child sexual activity.”
Coulton made contact in December, 2019, with the first decoy profile who claimed to be a 13-year-old girl.
Prosecuting barrister Anthony Dunne said Coulton sent a photo of a male with part of his penis exposed and he engaged in sexual conversations and sent further explicit images and asked for a picture.
Coulton also discussed meeting this profile in January, 2020, and he continued to send messages of a sexual nature and he said he wanted to have sex with her and added that he was serious about meeting her, according to Mr Dunne.
Mr Dunne said Coulton twice tried to arrange to meet the profile in January but neither meeting transpired and their communications ended in February.
However, Coulton struck up contact with another police decoy who was pretending to be a 12-year-old girl, according to Mr Dunne, and the defendant messaged her and sent her explicit images.
Mr Dunne said there was also a third police decoy profile who also received messages from Coulton including pornographic videos.
Police tracked down the Internet Protocol address which had been used to contact the decoys, according to Mr Dunne, in April, 2020, and this was the defendant’s home and he was also found to be in possession of a Category A indecent image of a child on his phone.
Coulton, now of Portland Close, Mickleover, Derby, who has one conviction for two dissimilar offences, pleaded guilty to 16 counts of offences relating to sexual communications with three police decoys between December, 2019, and April, 2020.
These included attempted sexual communication with a child, attempting to make a child watch a sexual act, attempting to engage in a sexual activity with a child, and attempting to cause a child to watch an image of sexual activity.
Ian West, defending, said: “He fully admitted his responsibility for his behaviour and he is not in an area of denial or trying to avoid responsibility. He has displayed high levels of regret and remorse.”
Mr West added: “His explanation is that he injured himself and had a period off work and was isolated and looking into social media contact and found himself falling into this behaviour.”
Coulton’s life has “fallen apart” following his arrest, according to Mr West who explained the defendant’s partner has left him and his work as a welder is likely to come to an end with a custodial sentence.
Judge Thomas sentenced Coulton to three-and-a-half years of custody and made him subject to the Sex Offenders Register and a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for an indefinite period.