December 2019

Dangerous paedophile presents high risk to post-pubescent children

A dangerous paedophile who presented a high risk to post-pubescent children was jailed for abusing an underage girl – while being investigated for a string of sex crimes against children.

The pervert assaulted the child as police built case against him for grooming four people he believed were children as young as 12.

Pizza delivery driver Ashley Vernon was originally caught by undercover paedophile hunters after he sent them sexually explicit messages and photographs, assuming they were minors.

In reality they were decoys set up by the group who turned up at his former address to confront him.

Vernon, 33, was not at his home in Heanor, Derbyshire, but the paedophile hunters managed to trace him to a pub in Somercotes.

He drove himself to Ripley Police Station in Derbyshire after being confronted and was arrested.

Stuart Lody, prosecuting, told Derby Crown Court how Vernon created a false username on social media and began messaging ‘Cherry, Holly, Ellie and Anna’ – a quartet created by the paedophile hunters.

Mr Lody said: ‘He drove himself to the police station, telling officers when he arrived he was being followed and filmed by the group,which was exactly what was happening.

‘He told them he had no intention of arranging to meet any girls and did not get sexual gratification from underage girls.’

But while being investigated, Vernon prayed on another underage girl and sexually abused her in his pizza delivery van.

Mr Lody said Vernon touched her sexually and talked her into doing the same to him.

When he was arrested a second time, the predator admitted what happened in the van.

He pleaded guilty to charges including sexual activity with a child, attempting to incite a child into engaging in sexual activity, and causing a child to watch a sex act.

Laura Pitman, mitigating, said her client – who had one unrelated previous conviction for harassment – had pleaded guilty and spared his victim the need to come to court and give evidence.

She said: ‘Through me he wishes to express his remorse for what he has done and the effect his actions have had on her.

‘He does not know why he behaved in the way he did. All he can says is that as a child something happened to him of a sexual nature.’

Judge Shaun Smith QC handed Vernon a six-year prison sentence – but he will remain on licence until 2028 and on the sex offender register for life.

He said: ‘It was clearly grooming behaviour and I have no doubt whatsoever you are dangerous and will be for the foreseeable future.

‘You went on to commit a physical offence while being investigated for a virtual offence and you have a sexual interest in 13 to 14-year-old girls.

‘You present a high risk to post-pubescent children.’