Published: 11:48, 19 May 2017 |
Updated: 11:43, 22 May 2017
A former advertising agency boss who was conned into believing he was meeting a 14-year-old boy for a sexual encounter has been spared jail because of his public humiliation.
Christopher Williams was “shamed and punished” after being led into a trap by paedophile vigilante group The Hunted One.
His “citizens arrest” was posted on their website and social media.
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The 49-year-old pervert had sent explicit messages believing he was in contact with a boy called Sam on the gay and bisexual dating app Grindr.
Williams arranged to meet him at Mote Park Leisure Centre in Maidstone hoping to commit a sex act with him.
In one message he said the boy should not be nervous.
But when he arrived there in his Range Rover at 9pm on Sunday, April 2 he was confronted and filmed by members of The Hunted One.
In the 20 minutes of footage Williams repeatedly apologised and asked to be let go, Maidstone Crown Court heard. It also showed him being arrested by police.
By the time he had made his first court appearance two days later it had been viewed more than 100,000 times and shared on Facebook.
Kieran Brand, defending, said graffiti was then daubed on the road outside his home in Goudhurst Road, Cranbrook.
It also led to him quitting his job as director of the firm VMA, based in Headcorn, which he established 25 years ago.
"There is no doubt you have already been very substantially punished by the public humiliation brought about by the publication of this matter" - Judge Adele Williams
The father-of-three admitted attempting to meet a child under 16 following grooming and was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment suspended for two years.
He will also have to do 100 hours unpaid work and attend a sex offender treatment programme.
Williams was given a conditional discharge in 1989 for gross indecency.
Judge Adele Williams said she could “just about” suspend the sentence because of “the very real effect” of the publicity.
“There is no doubt you have already been very substantially punished by the public humiliation brought about by the publication of this matter,” she told him.
He had also expressed “appropriate remorse”.
The judge said although the child was fictitious Williams had been prepared to groom a teenage boy.
“That, of course, is wholly unacceptable behaviour,” she added.
Williams will also be subject to a three-month tagged curfew between 9pm and 7am. His name will appear on the sex offenders’ register for 10 years.
Judge Williams said using the internet to groom children was “a great mischief in our society”.
Kieran Brand, defending, said the public shaming had both a personal and professional impact.
Mr Brand said Williams realised he had real work to do in addressing his problems through a treatment programme.
“Public shame or not, he recognises it was his actions that brought this about,” he added.
“He is ashamed about his conduct and remorseful of the shame he has brought on his children.”
Prosecutor Keith Yardy said of the video taken by The Hunted One: “It shows him being confronted and that he kept saying sorry, he was out of order and asked the group to let him go.”
Williams told police he used the gay and bisexual dating app Grindr on a daily basis.
“He said he noticed the account of Sam and started communicating with him,” said Mr Yardy.
“He said he should have blocked him there and then when he knew he was 14, but he was stupid.”
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