#childpredator | Isle of Wight sex offender caught by paedophile hunters



A SHALFLEET sex offender caught by both a paedophile hunters group and police decoy accounts, for grooming three fictitious adolescent girls, has been spared jail.

Matthew Smith, of Warlands Lane, appeared before the Isle of Wight Crown Court on Tuesday (November 9).

At a previous hearing in September, the 29-year-old admitted attempting to engage in sexual communications with a child, attempting to cause a child to engage in sexual activity, and attempting to cause a child to look at an image of sexual activity.

Prosecutor, Barry Mcelduff, told the court a volunteer at paedophile hunter group Scales of Justice, which seeks to identify online child predators, became aware of Smith’s offending behaviour.

He said she had set up a ‘dormant’ account on a social media site ­— one which would only be ‘resuscitated’ when someone made contact with it.

Mr Mcelduff said the account purported to be a 13-year-old girl, and Smith made contact in April, 2019, saying he would be kind if they met and had sex.

Mr Mcelduff described it as classic grooming behaviour, and said Smith sent videos of his genitals and videos of sexual intercourse to the account.

The court heard the conversation escalated further, with Smith sending more videos of himself and encouraging the girl to perform sex acts.

Mr Mcelduff said the volunteer gave the information to her team leaders, who travelled to the Isle of Wight to confront Smith.

Police became involved, and Smith denied responsibility for the messages, insisting someone had hacked his phone.

While on bail, Mr Mcelduff said Smith committed further offences, but had gone to great lengths to try to cover his tracks.

The court head Smith engaged in two separate conversations with police decoy accounts, believing them to be 12-year-old girls.

He said they took place across June and July, 2021, and culminated in Smith sending indecent images of himself over Snapchat and requesting similar pictures.

Arrested on July 27, police seized clothing of his, which matched those seen in the photographs sent to the decoys.

In police interview, he again denied responsibility, claiming he was set up.

Jonathan Underhill, defending, said Smith was a man of previous good character who had not been before the criminal courts before.

He said he was a man struggling with acceptance of his own difficulties.

Mr Underhill said, while the easy option would be to lock Smith up, what needed to be solved was the underlying triggers and basis of his sexual interest in children.

The court heard it would be better for Smith to address his offending behaviours outside prison.

Mr Underhill expressed his concerns that in custody, Smith could be targeted and manipulated by more sophisticated offenders.

Smith was given a two-year prison sentence, suspended for 24 months, to include 200 hours of unpaid work and 30 rehabilitation days.

He was placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register for ten years, and a sexual harm prevention order of equivalent length was made.

Smith was also ordered to pay a surcharge of £140.





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