HGV driver caught planning sexual activity with 'schoolgirl' after sending string of vulgar messages

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A pervert who planned to have sexual activity with a 13-year-old girl was caught on camera by paedophile hunters.

HGV driver Michael Billham made contact with who he thought was an underage schoolgirl over an online teen chat site last September.

The 52-year-old sent a series of sickeningly "vulgar" messages detailing explicit sex acts then planned a meeting at Newcastle city centre.

When he arrived to meet the youngster, who did not exist, he was confronted by Dark Justice, a group who trawl the internet to expose paedophiles, who had alerted the police.

He told officers he had been "so stupid".

Billham, of Cragside, Brunswick, Newcastle, admitted attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming.

At Newcastle Crown Court Judge Sarah Mallett sentenced him to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, with rehabilitation requirements,

sex offender programme, ten years on the sex offenders register and a five-year sexual harm prevention order.

The judge said the sentence was the way of "best managing future risks" and told him: "There was an attempt to commit an impossible offence but, of course, the potential for harm does not need stated. "

Judge Mallett said Billham, who lost his HGV driving job as a result of the conviction, has shown remorse and a willingness to address his offending.

Prosecutor Mark Giuliani told the court Billham had sent a message to the teen profile on the site, which was for 13-19 year-olds, saying "I would like to meet you" and stating his true age.

Mr Giuliani added: "The group responded with 'I am 13' and then there follows what can only be described as vulgar messages from the defendant to who he believed was a 13-year-old girl."

Billham was confronted on camera when he turned up at the Centre for Life in Newcastle city centre on September 30 last year.

Mr Giuliani said: "There was an intention for penetrative activity."

Gavin Doig, defending, said no real child was involved and Billham, who lives with his parents, has never been in trouble before and is willing to work with the authorities who can help him.