1. ITV Report

Man who sent explicit online messages to 'girl' caught by vigilante group

Credit: PA

A man has been sentenced by a judge for engaging in explicit sexual chat with what he thought was a 13-year-old girl.

Stephen McCue, 59, was snared by a vigilante “online safety team” who set up a number of social media profiles purportedly of children. “In effect bait,” prosecutor Charles Brown told Carlisle Crown Court, “waiting for sexual predators to bite.”

McCue contacted one “girl”, said to be called Sophie and from Edinburgh. Sexualised conversation took place but, despite being informed of the “child’s” age “from the outset” he sent her several explicit sexual messages on Facebook.

McCue was confronted on his doorstep by vigilante group members, whose practice is to live-stream their encounters, the court heard. Police were alerted and arrived 20 minutes later.

Prosecutor Charles Brown told the court of McCue: “It is clear this man has sought out a young girl and made, pretty soon after starting the conversation, sexual references and encouraged sexual action on her part.”

Initially in interview, McCue denied sending explicit messages and knowing the age of the “girl”. But during a later court appearance he admitted attempting to incite a child to engage in sexual activity.

McCue, of Mona Road, Salterbeck, Workington, was sentenced on Friday when his barrister spoke of a “degree of loneliness and lack of self-esteem”.

Judge Peter Davies imposed a three-year community order and told the defendant to complete a rehabilitation requirement and an accredited sex offender course. McCue must also sign the sex offenders’ register, and abide by the strict terms of a sexual harm prevention order, both for five years.

“This was disgusting,” Judge Davies said of the offending. “This must stop and you must be told not to do it again, and encouraged not to do it again to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

“Because if it does happen again, to prison you will go. Treat this order as a method of rescuing you.”