East Herrington man avoids prison after sending sexual messages to teenage girl decoy

An East Herrington married man has avoided prison after he asked what he thought was a young girl to take “bra selfies” before sending her sexually explicit messages.

Philip Hughes blamed his “sexual frustration due to issues in his relationship” for contacting the 14-year-old child on social media site, Whisper. However, unbeknown to the 38-year-old, the “girl” was actually an undercover police officer and, despite being immediately told her “age”, he asked if she liked older men, a court was told.

Prosecutors said that Hughes then pretended to be an 18-year-old male and sent pictures to the girl of a young, adult man, partially exposing his penis. He then asked how big her breasts were, told her to send him a “bra selfie” and went into explicit detail of the sexual acts he wanted to do to her, Newcastle Crown Court heard.

After two days, Hughes, of East Herrington Sunderland, cut off contact with the teenager but he was later arrested and pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child. He was given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, was made subject of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for seven years and must sign the Sex Offenders’ Register for the same period.

Prosecutor, Kevin Wardlaw, said an undercover police officer set-up a fake profile on Whisper and Hughes started chatting to her on July 13 last year, despite her stating she was only 14. He asked if she liked older men, how big her breasts were and if she’d had sex with a previous boyfriend.

Mr Wardlaw continued: “He then went on to ask her for a “cheeky bra selfie”. He sent an image of a young teenage male to her to convince her she was communicating with someone of similar age to herself.”

The court heard that Hughes then sent further images of a young male in shorts and partially exposing his penis before going into explicit detail of the sexual acts he’d like to do to her. Two days later, on July 16, he broke off contact with the girl but he was later tracked down by police and arrested.

In interview, he told officers that he had become addicted to porn and was suffering from sexual frustration due issues in his relationship, however, he denied having an inappropriate interest in children.

David Callan, defending, said Hughes had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity, was remorseful and was supported by his wife. He added: “He had lost his dream job at the time. He was isolated and depressed and had time on his hands. That’s how this offending started.”

Sentencing him, Judge Robert Spragg said he was just persuaded to suspended Hughes’s prison term as it was his first offence and there was a realistic prospect of rehabilitation.

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