January 2020

Grindr pervert snared outside Blackpool pub by ‘paedophile hunter’

A pervert was caught by a self-styled ‘paedophile hunter’ group in an online sting after they pretended to be a 14-year-old boy.

Scott Hopkin, of Thornton-Cleveleys, engaged in sex chat with a ‘vigilante’ called Mr Dixon over the social networking site Grindr believing he was called ‘Luke’.

During the ‘flirty and overly-friendly’ conversations the defendant, using the name ‘Scotty’, said he “would like to get to know you better if I can”.

He asked to meet Luke in person in Blackpool and told him they would ‘take it slow by kissing and cuddling’.

Prosecutor Adam Lodge told Preston Crown Court: “This case comes out of activity arising from an online paedophile hunting group.

“Mr Dixon set up the group TFN UK and occupies his spare time by acting as a volunteer paedophile hunter.

“They are a group of people who work together for the purpose of highlighting online grooming of children and seeking to identify suspected offending.”

The court heard how Mr Dixon set up Grindr and Facebook accounts under the name Luke and used a picture of a boy.

He was first contacted by Hopkin on November 30 last year and Mr Lodge said their conversation ‘started innocently enough’.

The defendant then said he “would like to get to know you better if i can” and the conversation turned ‘flirty and overly-friendly’.

On December 18, Hopkin made contact with Luke using a different username and they agreed to meet two days later outside a Blackpool pub.

Mr Lodge said: “The defendant arrived and so did Mr Dixon and a number of paedophile hunter colleagues.

“The police were called and attended. Mr Hopkin was arrested and his phone was seized.”

The defendant made admissions to officers in interview about his offending behaviour but denied having a sexual interest in young boys.

He said all the people he had met on Grindr were adults and he had ‘not planning for anything more to happen other than kissing and cuddling’.

Hopkin, of Broadway, Thornton-Cleveleys. pleaded guilty at an earlier magistrates hearing to attempting to meet a 14-year-old boy following grooming.

Sentencing, Judge Heather Lloyd said: “You were arrested as a result of vigilante action which is not uncommon.

“You had been having conversations over a relatively short period of time with somebody who you ultimately believed was a 14-year-old boy and you suggested you should meet.

“You were talking in terms of taking this slowly with kissing and cuddling.

“You had been struggling with a lack of self-esteem and confidence, felt lonely and isolated and were frightened to disclose your sexuality by those closest to you.

“You are now fearful of reprisals because what you have done has been circulated on social media.

“It’s clear you can be rehabilitated .

“Unfortunately people talking to children, wanting sexual contact with children and arranging to meet with real children is all too prevalent.

“A sentence of imprisonment must be imposed but I’m prepared to suspend it.”

Hopkin was given an eight-month prison sentence, suspended for two years with a 30-day rehabilitation activity requirement.