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  1. ITV Report

Former mayor jailed after being snared by paedophile hunters

Lee Cook, who has since resigned as mayor of Peterlee Photo:

A town's youngest ever mayor has been jailed for 12 months after being snared by paedophile hunters while trying to meet a 15-year-old boy.

Lee Cook was confronted by Guardians of the North after exchanging sexual chat with who he believed was a 15-year-old boy on Gay dating app Grindr.

The 30-year-old, who has since resigned as the mayor of Peterlee, organised to meet the 'teenager' at his own home on August 5 but was greeted by the undercover organisation and police.

Robin Turton, prosecuting, told the Durham Crown Court how Cook sent the decoy explicit images during the online chat.

He told the court how Cook tried to claim he thought the '15' related to the number of miles between him and the boy and not his age.

Mr Turton said: "When the screen shots were put to the defendant he then reverted to saying 'no comment'."

Cook, of Quantock Place, Peterlee, County Durham, pleaded guilty at a earlier hearing to trying to meet a boy under 16 following grooming.

The matter is one that is an attempt, no actual child involved.

The person who has got involved in the conversation in the Grindr application is an adult.

It's accepted there was sexual images exchanged however no child saw these sexual images and the person that did see these sexual images was someone engaging in this conversation on Grindr in a sexual fashion.

Mr Cook is somebody who has carried out work in the community and he's assisted and helped people as far as he can.

– Penny Bottomley, defending

Ms Bottomley also told the court that Cook has had to move house because of death threats.

You have in the past been a positive and pre social member of society where you live. You have done positive voluntary work and unpaid work in the community.

I think you are genuinely remorseful, I think you have genuine regret.

This is not a case where I can suspend the sentence.

You thought you were going to meet a child.

That offence is too serious too suspend.

– The Judge, Recorder Peter Makepeace

Recorder Makepeace sentenced Cook to 12 months in prison.

He also ordered him to abide by a sexual harm prevention order for five years and to sign the sex offenders register for 10 years.

I think the sentence should have been much, much longer.

He was in a position of trust and he abused that position. It's disgusting. He's completely abused his position.

He used a fake name, we never knew. Even when we met up with him we didn't know he was the mayor.

The effect it has on us, always worrying that when they're not talking to us they could be talking to actual children.

They say there isn't a victim, of course there is a victim. We still have to look at these images and if it wasn't us it would be a real child.

He could have ruined somebody's life. The child but also their family, an entire generation. This doesn't just stop with the child.

– Kay, Guardians of the North member