Former Red Funnel first officer admits child sex offence — caught grooming via dating app

A FORMER Red Funnel officer arranged to meet a “13-year-old boy” at a theme park after grooming him through an online dating app, a court heard yesterday.

Matthew Parker sent messages to the boy’s profile saying he wanted to “kiss, cuddle and hold hands” with him after meeting him on Grindr.

The 41-year-old later bought tickets for the pair to go to Thorpe Park.

But the 13-year-old’s profile was actually a fake – run by an adult working for paedophile hunter group Child Safe UK.

Parker was arrested by police and pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to facilitate a sexual offence against a child.

Yesterday at Southampton Crown Court, Parker was given a 12-month custodial sentence, suspended for two years.

The court heard he first began speaking to the boy through Grindr, an online dating application geared towards gay, bi and trans people.

Prosecutor Nick Wells told the court Parker had stated in his profile that he was “only into young guys”.

Mr Wells said the conversation between Parker and the boy later moved to free online chats website Kik Messenger.

He said Parker sent a number of “inappropriate messages” to the boy, including telling him he wanted to “kiss, cuddle and hold his hand”, but said that they could do “nothing more”.

Parker, who was previously employed as a First Officer on Red Funnel, was arrested in July last year after arranging to meet the young boy at Thorpe Park.

In mitigation, Lucy Conroy said Parker had undertaken counselling sessions since his arrest.

In sentencing, Judge Gary Burrell QC said Parker’s case was unusual.

He said: “Throughout the conversation you do not try to promote messages of a sexual nature and you do not request sexual pictures or send any yourself. This is unusual [in these cases].”

Parker, previously of Holbury, but now of Picket Twenty Way, Andover, was sentenced to a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.

He was also ordered to complete 55 days of rehabilitation activity requirement, pay £600 in court costs and made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order.