A Littlehampton man has been sent to prison for attempting to meet a girl for sex.
Ian Collard, 28, unemployed, now of East Street, Littlehampton, was sentenced to two years imprisonment at Lewes Crown Court yesterday, having previously pleaded guilty at Brighton Magistrates Court to attempting to meet a girl to engage in sexual activity following online grooming.
According to Sussex Police, the case began when a girl became suspicious after receiving inappropriate messages from a man who turned out to be Collard, on Facebook, so she told her parents.
They contacted a third party who took over the online conversation posing as the girl, and Collard continued to chat and arranged the meeting, unaware of what had happened.
Collard, who had been living at an address in George William Mews, Portslade, at the time, went to the Victoria Recreation Ground in Portslade on June 3 to meet the girl – but instead, members of the public had turned up to confront him at that location, and then rang Sussex Police.
When Collard was arrested, officers from the Brighton Safeguarding Investigations Unit took over the investigation and secured all the evidence necessary for an effective prosecution, as a result of which Collard pleaded guilty at his first court appearance the day after he was arrested.
He will be a registered sex offender for ten years and was also given a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) to last ten years, severely restricting his access to children and computers.
But police investigator Andy Scott warned people against taking matters into their own hands when it came to catching sexual predators. He said: “Online approaches like this should always be reported to us first so that we can ensure a proper investigation that will ensure that the offender is brought to justice.”
For information and advice about child sexual exploitation see the Sussex Police website.