A man who sent vile messages to a person he thought was a 13-year-old girl was arrested at the Aldi store where he worked.
Liam Ridgeway, 27, used the nickname “HungforYoung” online and sent the “girl” naked pictures, supposedly of himself – and even asked if she would have sex with a man in her mum’s bed.
Ridgeway, from Liverpool, was actually speaking to an undercover police officer, the Liverpool Echo reports.
He ran out of court after being spared jail.
Ridgeway started talking to “Becca” on an online chat forum called Chatiw on October 8, 2019, Liverpool Crown Court heard.
Michael Stephenson, prosecuting, said: “He signed on using what some would consider the suggestive handle of HungforYoung.
“He very quickly moved to asking sexually explicit questions of Becca and of course the undercover officer made it clear at an early stage that he was supposedly talking with a 13-year-old who was still at school.”
Mr Stephenson said Ridgeway sent Becca two photos of a man showing his penis and claimed it was him, when in fact it was not.
He said Ridgeway went on to ask the girl about her sexual experience and the size of her breasts and bottom before the conversation moved to Skype.
The pervert then started pressing the child to send him a picture of her in a bra and underwear.
Mr Stephenson said: “He continued with sexual questions, asking whether she would have sex with a man in her mother’s bed.”
He said Ridgeway also asked whether she would be willing to meet, but didn’t continue with that line of questioning and when he logged on twice more on October 10 and 16, he greeted Becca but each time was then “unresponsive”.
Police identified Ridgeway’s IP address and raided his then home in Dryden Street, Bootle, but he wasn’t present.
Judge David Potter said: “He was arrested at Aldi, at his work.”
Mr Stephenson said Ridgeway was interviewed that day, declined legal representation and accepted he was involved in the chat.
The prosecutor said: “I think the flavour of the interview was not so much that he didn’t believe he was speaking to a 13-year-old, but he said it hadn’t really registered with him.
“He explained he was at a difficult stage in his personal relationship with his partner, he was looking to make contact with a younger person, but not someone who was underage.”
The court heard electronic devices were seized from his home, leading to a delay in the case while they were analysed, but no indecent images of children were recovered.
Ridgeway, who had no previous convictions, admitted attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child, attempting to cause a child aged 13 to look at an image of sexual activity, and intentionally encouraging the commission of an offence.
Jason Smith, defending, highlighted that the conversation took place over one day and there wasn’t a persistent attempt at grooming.
He said: “Your honour will be all too familiar with cases such as this where the abuse, for that’s what it is, carried on for much longer.
“This was of relatively short duration, stopped by the defendant himself, not by any arrest.”
Mr Smith said: “The response he gave to police on his arrest is perhaps the most clear remorse one can hear, ‘I plead guilty, it was me’.”
He said Ridgeway had “a very good prospect of rehabilitation” and until this had a job, but said: “That employment of course has been affected by this offence.”
The lawyer said: “His life was in a chaotic state in October of 2019. He was suffering from the trauma of the loss of his father and he was suffering from the collapse of his relationship.”
Mr Smith said his client could again be “a very positive member of society” and was willing to tackle his issues, as suggested in a pre-sentence report, to ensure no further offending or harm to society.
He said: “Before these offences took place in October 2019, he was a hardworking man, with a family, and a man many people thought very highly of. That cannot be said now.”
Judge David Potter said it was important to note that the sexual conversation was on one day and that Ridgeway “desisted”.
He accepted it was not the sort of case involving prolonged communication with one child, chats with multiple children, or persistent attempts to meet.
The judge noted Ridgeway was under “a considerable degree of stress” at the time.
He said he could spare Ridgeway jail because of factors including that he “voluntarily desisted in this behaviour towards a single victim”, that there was a realistic prospect of rehabilitation, the delays in the case since October 2019, because nothing illegal was found on his devices, and the ongoing effect of the coronavirus pandemic on inmates.
Judge Potter handed him 12 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, and said he must complete a Horizon sex offenders treatment programme, a 20-day Rehabilitation Activity Requirement and 100 hours of unpaid work.
He told him to sign on the Sex Offenders Register and comply with a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for 10 years.
Children concerned about abuse can contact Childline 24/7 on 0800 1111, and adults concerned about the wellbeing of children can phone the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 8005000.