Dark Justice snared internet pervert who thought he was meeting girl, 13, for sex

Steven McCarthy thought he was meeting a 13-year-old girl at Alnwick bus station.

Steven McCarthy thought he was meeting a 13-year-old girl at Alnwick bus station.

An internet pervert who turned up to meet a 13-year-old girl he had chatted to online found himself confronted by paedophile hunters.

Unemployed Steven McCarthy believed he had been talking to an underage schoolgirl on Facebook and arranged to meet her at Alnwick bus station in Northumberland - after saying her tender years would not put him off having sex.

Newcastle Crown Court heard when the 46-year-old arrived he was confronted by members of Dark Justice, an anonymous organisation which exposes men looking for sex with young girls.

The organisation had notified Northumbria Police about the undercover sting and had officers in tow.

McCarthy, of Upper Howick Street, Alnwick, was arrested and pleaded guilty to attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming.

Prosecutor Lee Fish told the court McCarthy had sent a friend request to a Facebook profile of a 13-year-old and engaged her in chat.

When asked what he wanted, McCarthy posted "Sex, if you want."

Mr Fish added: "At that point, the girl said 'Does my age not put you off, being 13?'.

"His response was 'Not at all, babe'.

"The prosecution case is that it could not have been clearer, the defendant knew he was speaking to someone who was supposed to be a 13-year-old girl."

The court heard McCarthy repeated that the girl's age did not put him off when they arranged to meet for a drink and he agreed there would be "kissing and stuff".

On August 13 McCarthy turned up at the bus station carrying cans of lager.

He told police the alcohol was for him and insisted his plan was for the girl to go in his bed while he slept on the sofa.

He admitted he may have kissed the girl.

Judge Robert Adams told McCarthy: "Of course there was no child, but you believed at the time you were communicating with a 13-year-old.

"It was made very clear to you the person you thought you were communicating with was 13.

"You were even asked whether the age of the person put you off and you said 'not at all'."

Judge Adams said "it is not known what would have happened" if there had been an actual girl at the meeting.

McCarthy was sentenced to eight months' imprisonment, suspended for two years, with rehabilitation and group work requirements.

He must sign the sex offenders' register and abide by the terms of a sexual harm prevention order for 10 years.

Judge Adams said the intensive requirements of the orders, aimed at dealing with his "warped" desires, would better serve the public than a prison sentence would.

Richard Bloomfield, defending, said McCarthy, who has never been in trouble before, is not a sexual predator and represents a more "pathetic" character.