South Yorkshire sex offender given suspended sentence after he admits breaching court order by sending explicit messages to young 'girls' online

A South Yorkshire man has walked away from court with a suspended sentence after he admitted breaching a court order to send sexual messages to online accounts he believed belonged to girls aged 12 and 13.

By Sarah Marshall
Wednesday, 25th September 2019, 4:51 pm
Updated Saturday, 28th September 2019, 3:37 pm
Paul Leighton sent sexual and inappropriate messages online to accounts he believed belonged to young girls aged 12 and 13

Paul Leighton, 47, was made the subject of an indefinite sexual harm prevention order (SHPO) in 2015, after he was convicted of two counts of making indecent images of children, Sheffield Crown Court heard.

As part of the order, a number of conditions were placed upon Leighton, including one which stipulated he must not have any contact with any female child under the age of 18.

Prosecutor, Gordon Stables, said Leighton, of Station Road, Rotherham breached the order on numerous occasions by sending inappropriate and sexual messages to accounts he believed belonged to young girls, but were actually manned by adult members of ‘so-called paedophile hunter groups’.

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Paul Leighton sent sexual and inappropriate messages online to accounts he believed belonged to young girls aged 12 and 13

During one conversation with a ‘decoy’ account purporting to be a 13-year-old girl, Leighton requested ‘numerous pictures including naked ones,’ said Mr Stables.

He added: “He said he would love to see her breasts, and wanted to have cuddles. He also asked on March 1, 2018 if he could meet her at Ice Sheffield.”

Leighton failed to turn up at the arranged time to meet the decoy girl but members of the group, ‘Justice for Kids,’ who had been communicating with him via the online account subsequently confronted him and posted details of his address online, the court heard.

Mr Stables told the court that Leighton also sent a number of messages to a decoy girl who told him she was 12-years-old, in which he told her he was in the shower naked and asked her what she was wearing.

He also sent messages to another account purporting to be a 12-year-old girl, and asked her to send him pictures of her in her pyjamas.

Leighton also asked another account claiming to belong to a 13-year-old girl if she wanted to join him in bed.

He was arrested by South Yorkshire Police, after they were contacted by Justice for Kids, but the other paedophile hunter groups refused to co-operate with the force, the court heard.

Leighton pleaded guilty to five counts of attempting to breach a SHPO, one count of attempting to cause a child to engage in sexual activity and one count of attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child at an earlier hearing.

All of the offences were committed between January and March last year, the court heard.

Joy Merriam said in mitigation: “There were no real young girls involved in this, they were members of so-called paedophile hunter groups. They published his address on the internet, and it has rightly been stated by the prosecution that they were making repeated efforts for him to meet up with the decoy.”

Mrs Merriam added that Leighton was receiving treatment for cancer, and said he had made full admissions to the police despite the fact that most of the paedophile hunter groups he had been in contact with refused to help with the investigation.

Judge Slater sentenced Leighton to 16 months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered him to attend the ‘Horizon’ programme and complete a 20-day rehabilitation activity requirement.

He told him: “You are unlikely to change your attitude towards young girls, which I believe is sexual, if you are sent to prison. You would come out of your sentence and do the same again. It seems to me that the problem you have needs to be dealt with by way of the set of intensive conditions suggested in the [pre-sentence] report.”