A High Street East man who wanted to meet a child to have sex with her was snared by paedophile hunters.
Michael Hawthorne made contact with a profile purporting to be a 14-year-old girl online and quickly turned the conversation sexual. He asked for images and said he wanted to meet to consume alcohol and engage in sexual activity.
In fact it was a decoy profile being run by a vigilante group called the Child Online Safety Team and he was detained when he arranged to meet the “child”. After being released on bail, Hawthorne went on to assault and intimidate a vulnerable woman and he has now been jailed.
Newcastle Crown Court heard it was in September 2021 that Hawthorne was in communication with the decoy profile. He inquired about her knowledge of sex and asked for pictures.
Annelise Haugstad, prosecuting, said: “He messaged her about meeting up and there’s talk of sex taking place either in a public toilet or his shared accommodation after they had bought alcohol with her holiday money. He made repeated requests to have sex with her. He said if anyone makes inquiries about her age to tell them she was 19 and that she should wear make-up to help her look older.”
After being arrested for that and released, he went on to form a short relationship with a vulnerable woman. Within two days of meeting her, he “took advantage of her kindness” and moved in. Miss Haugstad said: “He refused to leave her flat, he ate her food, made her pay for drugs and alcohol and stopped her meeting friends.”
He ended up being removed and arrested and was bailed by police not to return but he then assaulted her and threatened if she didn’t drop the charges he would torch her flat with her in it.
The 40-year-old, originally from Blyth but now lives on High Street East, Sunderland, who has 55 previous convictions, pleaded guilty to arranging or facilitating a child sex offence, attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child, attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming, assault and witness intimidation.
He was jailed for a total of three years and eleven months and must sign the sex offender’s register indefinitely. He was also made subject to indefinite sexual harm prevention and restraining orders.
David Callan, defending, said: “He has not had an easy life, he had a rough upbringing. He has an alcohol dependency. It’s the first time he has committed a sexual offence.” The court heard he has some learning difficulties and mental health issues.