April 2016

Online ‘groomer’ from Rugby caught in sting, avoids jail sentence

A hospital porter who began chatting to a young woman on an adults-only dating website arranged to meet her even after being told she was actually only 15.

But the girl had been created as part of a sting – and when he turned up to meet her at Coventry railway station he was confronted by someone who passed his details to the police.

Following his arrest Michael Holden, 38, of St Andrews Crescent, Rugby, pleaded guilty to attempting to meet a child under the age of 16 following on-line grooming.

And at Warwick Crown Court he was given a community order with a condition that he takes part in a three-year sex offenders’ programme, and was ordered to register as a sex offender for five years.

Prosecutor Sarah Allen said the case arose out of the actions of a man called Simon Hudson who set up a profile on a social media site in a bid to catch men trying to meet under-age girls.

“The account he sets up is of someone over-age, and when he has lured someone in he then says the person is 15 – to see if the person continues to respond.”

The profile was of ‘Kayla,’ originally described as being in her late 20’s, but early in their on-line chat after Holden contacted her it was ‘revealed’ she was only 15.

But their conversations continued, moving from the original dating website to the Whatsapp mobile phone message app.

Holden sent her a number of inappropriate messages in which he talked of ‘tasting’ her and cuddling her, and sent photos of himself – but Miss Allen pointed out they were not necessarily of a sexual nature, and he did not encourage her to send such images of herself.

He arranged to meet Kayla on August 27 last year at Coventry railway station, but when he arrived he was confronted by Mr Hudson who video-recorded Holden – who then drove away.

Hudson reported the defendant to police, who went to his house and arrested him.

Officers checked his computer and did not find any illegal material on it, although his search terms indicated an interest in teenage girls – but they did find confirmation of his chats with Kayla.

When he was questioned, Holden accepted he had continued talking to her after it had been disclosed she was 15, but claimed he had gone to the station to tell her it was something he was no longer going to continue.

And he tried to suggest his messages were ‘of a caring, fatherly nature, rather than anything sexual,’ added Miss Allen.

Recorder Adrian Reynolds asked what Mr Hudson’s ‘angle’ was, and Miss Allen said: “The police make it plain they are not encouraging people to act in this manner, and not much is known about Mr Hudson or why he’s doing this.”

Ian Speed, defending, conceded: “There can never, ever be any mitigation for offences of this kind, but (Holden) has been candid with the police and the probation service, so I would ask for him to be given maximum credit.

“He is employed as a hospital porter, but is currently suspended awaiting the outcome of this case.”

Sentencing Holden, Recorder Reynolds told him: “While I fully take account of the fact that you were lured into committing this offence by someone no doubt with their own agenda, once he made it clear he was a 15-year-old girl he could not force you into doing anything. You did it because you wanted to.

“Where it would have gone, we don’t know, but I certainly don’t accept you went to the station to tell her it was all off, and you don’t maintain that nonsense in the pre-sentence report.

“What shines through is that you have seen this from your perspective and how it affects you, but all right-thinking people would have considered more how it would impact on the girl.

“You only have to think of the impact on the girl involved with Adam Johnson to see that; and as a man with three children you have even less excuse for not recognising the vulnerability of children.

“Your offence crosses the custody threshold, but I have to ask myself what is the best way of dealing with you from everyone’s point of view – and I think that is by education rather than punishment.”