Pensioner who arranged to meet schoolgirl for sex snared at South Shields Metro station by undercover police

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A pensioner who arranged to meet a schoolgirl for sex was snared in an undercover police sting and has been put behind bars.

James Roberts, 70, thought he was chatting to a 14-year-old virgin in an internet chatroom in November 2020 but had been duped by a police decoy as part of an undercover operation.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the conversation, which started when the decoy posted that she "hated 2020", transferred to Whatsapp and became "highly sexual".

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Roberts arranged for the teen to travel to his home and said he would buy condoms in preparation for her visit.

James Roberts.James Roberts.
James Roberts.

But the court heard when he turned up at South Shields Metro station to meet the girl, the police were waiting to arrest him.

Prosecutor Andrew Finlay told the court Roberts had told the decoy teen at the start of the conversations "if you don't mind my age I don't mind yours".

During the conversations he told her he would be "at home drinking all day" and invited her to join him.

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Mr Finlay said as the chats progressed Roberts asked "what she did with lads", said he would help her with sexual "training" and that she would be "the youngest I have been with".

The court heard a meeting was arranged for November 12 2020 but he told her not to tell anyone.

Mr Finlay said: "The defendant made his way to South Shields Metro station in order to meet with her, where of course he was met by the police and arrested."

Roberts, of Greens Place, South Shields, admitted attempting to incite a child to engage in sexual activity and attempting to meet a child after grooming.

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The court heard he has previous convictions from many years ago but none for sexual offending.

Judge Robert Spragg sentenced Roberts to two-and-a-half years behind bars and said he must register as a sex offender for life and abide by a sexual harmprevention order for ten years.

The judge told him: "You arranged to meet her at South Shields Metro station with a plan to take her back to your house.

"You told her not to tell anyone.

"You turned up and the police were waiting for you."

Robin Turton, defending, said Roberts, who has health problems, was "drinking heavily and lonely" during lockdown.

Mr Turton added: "It is not a case where he has been cruising chat sites associated with children, this was a regular chat site he was using because he was lonely."