August 2019: Died just before sentencing

July 2019

Online groomer caught for second time trying to contact child for sex

An online groomer has been warned he may face a jail sentence after being caught by an internet sting operation for the second time.

Martin Whitby was already on a community order and about to start a sex offenders’ treatment programme when he sent Facebook messages to what he thought was a 14-year-old girl.

The messages were sent over a period of two days in January this year and discussed meeting her for sex. In reality, the Facebook profile was a decoy created by an adult.

It was the second time Whitby has been caught in identical circumstances. In February 2018, he was trapped by the Welsh-based paedophile hunter group PH Balance.

He arranged to meet a 15-year-old girl at Exeter Central station without realising he was communicating with a decoy. He said he wanted to give her cannabis and vodka and have sex.

He was put on a three year community order for the original offence in August last year and was also put on the sex offenders’ register and made subject of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) which banned him from contacting children on the internet.

He broke the order in January by sending Facebook messages to an adult woman who told him she was a 14-year-old girl.

Whitby, aged 45, of Hazel Road, Exeter, has admitted breaching a SHPO and was due to be sentenced at Exeter Crown Court.

Judge David Evans adjourned the case for a supplementary report from the probation service on how Whitby has been engaging with the community order and when he is due to start a sex offenders’ treatment programme.

He told him: “You have to be sentenced for the serious offence of breaching a SHPO during the currency of a community order. The probation report does not make encouraging reading.

“I am adjourning this case for the probation service to provide a little more detail about what you have and have not been doing under the order. From what I read, at the moment your attitude is all wrong.

“We will see what the further report says. The court will consider whether you need to go straight to prison or it may be possible to suspend the inevitable sentence.”

Mr Nigel Wraith, prosecuting, said the new offences were a very serious breach of the SHPO. He said:”There was a persistent breach, albeit over 48 hours, which risked serious harm if the girl been a real child.”