Doncaster man sent sexually explicit messages to police officer posing as 14-year-old girl
A Doncaster man who sent sexually explicit messages to a police officer posing as a 14-year-old girl has walked away from court with a suspended sentence
The case against Stephen Lewin, 35, arises from an operation run by the police, in which officers posed as a 14-year-old girl called ‘Hannah’ in chatrooms across a range of different websites, said David Hall, prosecuting.
Mr Hall told Sheffield Crown Court that Lewin, of West Road, Mexborough contacted ‘Hannah’ after she posted a message in a ‘just teens’ chatroom.
“He said he was from Sheffield and was 24-years-old. She clearly stated that she was 14-years-old,” Mr Hall said.
He told the court that over a two-week period, Lewin continued to send ‘Hannah’ messages that became progressively more sexual in nature.
Mr Hall said Lewin sent ‘Hannah’ pictures of himself in his underwear, as well as a picture of his genitals, and also encouraged her to ‘touch herself’.
“He tried to encourage her to take pictures of herself in her underwear...he asked if she would buy some new underwear to show him.
“When the officer asked if he meant ‘on here or in real life’ he said: ‘Yeah, on here as well’,” Mr Hall continued.
When Lewin was arrested, he said: 'She’s not 16, is she,’ referring to a real teenage girl he had been speaking to online.
Police found two pictures of the same girl on Lewin’s mobile phone, after his electronic devices were seized for analysis.
Mr Hall said police had not been able to identify the girl, but they estimated that she was aged between 15 and 17-years-old, which is why no charges were brought in relation to his sexual behaviour towards her.
“But it indicates the approach he took to the internet,” Mr Hall said.
In police interview, Lewin claimed not to ‘notice’ that ‘Hannah’ was 14, despite her clearly telling him her age, and mentioning that her mother was going to pick her up from school.
He subsequently pleaded guilty to charges of attempting to engage a child in sexual activity; attempting sexual communication with a child and making indecent images of children at an earlier hearing, all of which were committed between October and November 2017.
Under the law, 'making' an indecent image can refer to the 'opening, accessing, downloading and storing of online content'.
Defending, Dale Harris, questioned why it had taken two years for the case to be heard at court, and said it had been hanging over Lewin’s head throughout that period.
Mr Harris added: “His personal circumstances at the time, and I preface my remarks by saying there is no excuse for his behaviour, were that his marriage had ended, he was living in shared accommodation, and it seems he was very socially isolated.
“He was still at work, but it seems to be on the back of the breakdown of his marriage. He was old enough to know better, and quite simply, shouldn’t have engaged in this behaviour...his initial arrest did come with consequences. It stopped his unsupervised contact with his children, and that remains in place to this day.”
Judge Rachael Harrison sentenced Lewin to 21 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, ordered him to complete a 30-day rehabilitation activity requirement as well as 150 hours of unpaid work.
She made Lewin the subject of a 10-year sexual harm prevention order, and told him he will also be placed on to the sex offenders’ register for the same period of time.
Judge Harrison said members of the public reading this court report may believe that a defendant who sends sexual messages to someone he believed was a 14-year-old girl should go to prison; but said she judged there to be a ‘realistic prospect of rehabilitation’ in Lewin’s case which is why she felt able to suspend his sentence.
“If you come back before the courts, you will go to prison...there will be no excuses, there will be nothing you can say, you will go to prison,” Judge Harrison said.