Pervert caught by two groups of paedophile hunters trying to meet 'underage girl'

Smith appeared at Newcastle Crown Court.
Smith appeared at Newcastle Crown Court.

A pervert was snared by paedophile hunters for sending explicit messages to an underage girl while he was out on bail after being caught by a similar organisation trying to meet a child for sex.

Daniel Smith thought he had been chatting online to a youngster called "Zoe" in November 2015 but had been duped by Dark Justice, an undercover organisation that poses as children on the internet to snare predators.

When the now 21-year-old, of Victoria Road East, Hebburn, turned up to meet the 13-year-old at Times Square in Newcastle, after sending a series of illicit messages, asking for "naughty photographs" and carrying a bottle of gin for them to share, he was confronted by members of the organisation, who had alerted the police.

Smith, who had been repeatedly told "Zoe's" tender age during the chats, was arrested and allowed to keep his freedom while his case progressed through the crown court.

While on bail, Smith then started another series of online conversations with who he thought was a 14-year-old girl called "Louise" but had once again been duped.

This time, the underage profile had been set up by Guardians of the North, a similar group of paedophile hunters.

No meeting was arranged but Smith again asked if they could meet up, requested photographs and described in graphic detail what he would like to do with the child.

Smith, who has a low IQ, dyspraxia and a history of mental health problems, pleaded guilty to two offences of attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming and one of attempting to incite a child to engage in sexual activity at Newcastle Crown Court.

Judge Tim Gittins told him: "At a time when you were on bail and should have been on your best behaviour by way of any social interaction with any female at all, you chose to engage with a profile on another site."

Judge Gittins sentenced Smith to a community order for three years with sex offender treatment programme requirements.

Smith must sign the sex offenders register for five years and abide by the terms of a sexual harm prevention order for seven years.

The judge said intervention, as opposed to a prison sentence, was approriate in Smith's case in a bid to reduce the risk he currently poses to children.

Judge Gittins added; "Whilst the groups Guardians of the North and Dark Justice have performed their function, their aim, well, in preventing you and preventing others like you from causing harm to real females by bringing you to the attention of the police, I must have regard to the long term aim in a similar way, of preventing harm to real young females."

Tom Finch, mitigating, handed in references to Smith's ordinarily positive and hard-working character and said he has managed to have a good employment record, despite his educational difficulties.

Mr Finch said Smith, is vulnerable, naive, has led an isolated existence and was bullied in the past.

He added that his client feels "shame, embarrassment and regret" about what he did and added: "He clearly does need help".