A Sheffield man arranged to meet a 14-year-old girl he thought he was grooming online, only to be met by a married couple who were posing as the teenager and reported him to police.
Dean Copley, 45, was sentenced to three years in prison at Sheffield Crown Court today for attempted grooming after being caught in the sting operation by an organisation called the Online Predator Investigation Team (OPIT) at Sheffield station.
In the weeks leading up to the meeting, which was prompted by Copley, he had sent indecent images of himself to the profile and made sexual advances.
According to British Transport Police, the married couple behind the vigilante group had set up a fake Facebook profile of a 14-year-old girl, and on 29 December had received a friend request from Copley.
Once the request was accepted, Copley immediately started conversations about sex and in the weeks leading up to the meeting sent explicit pictures of himself and made sexual approaches, before suggesting meeting up.
Once the meeting was agreed, the team behind OPIT, a married couple, waited at the station where they confronted Copley and alerted police, who arrested him for attempted grooming.
In questioning, Copley, of Renathorpe Road, Sheffield, admitted sending the pictures but claimed it was by mistake and that he thought he had been talking with a 16-year-old.
He told officers he had realised the profile was fake but went ahead with the meeting to expose the people behind the sting to police. He later pleaded guilty to attempted grooming. Copley was handed a three-year prison sentence and also made subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order.
British Transport Police said Judge Peter Kelson QC told Copley that the defendant wanted “full sexual intercourse with a 14-year-old child”. The judge reportedly added: “You were not trapped by this couple you were trapped by your own perverted lust.”
Detective Inspector Mick Jackson from British Transport Police said: “This is a significant sentence which sends out a clear message and will hopefully act as a deterrent.
“I would like to praise the efforts of the officers whose hard work brought Copley to court today and helped secure this conviction.
“The details of the case are a stark reminder that young people using social media must be vigilant. If the profile had in fact been that of a 14-year-old girl the consequences of Copley’s intentions would have been extremely serious.
“Anyone who suspects online grooming activity should contact the police immediately.”