A Rugby pensioner who tried to persuade a 12-year-old boy to take part in sexual activity over the internet was never going to succeed – because the ‘boy’ was an under-cover police officer.
And after a bid to get the charge thrown out on the basis of entrapment, Patrick Gibbs pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to attempting to incite a child to engage in sexual activity.
Gibbs (78) of Dunnerdale, Brownsover, Rugby, was given a two-year prison sentence suspended for two years, with a condition of attending a sex offender programme for up to 100 days.
He was also ordered to take part in a rehabilitation activity, to register as a sex offender for ten years, and to pay £200 costs.
The court heard the police action had been triggered by activity on a website where Gibbs had ‘found himself talking to a police officer posing as a young person just shy of 13.’
Prosecutor Gary Venturi said: “Despite that, he accepts he was responsible for sexualising the conversation and proposing a meeting between them.”
Mr Venuri said Gibbs, who had no previous convictions, was charged with attempted incitement because the other person was a police decoy, and no child actually existed.
And an argument that the case should be dismissed on the grounds of incitement was rejected by Judge Anthony Potter at an earlier hearing – after which Gibbs had entered his guilty plea.
It was said he had entered his plea on the basis that by making the comments he had committed the offence, but that there was no real intention to meet the boy.
And Judge Potter said: “I bear in mind the basis of plea and what he says about his intention, no matter how explicit the messages may have been. He was fortunate there was no actual child in this case.
“I am conscious that it was an attempt, and that he is a man of 78 years of age of previous good character.”
His barrister Lucy Tapper pointed out that Gibbs had always indicated he would plead guilty if the legal argument on the application for the charge to be dismissed was rejected.
After remanding Gibbs in custody while he considered the case, Judge Potter told him: “You experienced a moment ago the usual journey that people who seek to have sex with children of 12 undertake.
“People who are adults, and people like you who are old enough to be the great-great-grandfather of a 12-year-old, who express an interest in 12-year-old children are the type of people the authorities have to ensure have absolutely no contact with children.
“You were extremely fortunate in that on two occasions, adopting two different identities, you sought to contact someone you believed to be just shy of 13 years of age, but that in fact that person happened to be a police officer.
“Whatever the reason for your sustained conversation, there was no prospect of you meeting a child.
“The risk you posed is identified, but I have to be mindful of the fact that no real child was involved and that this was an attempt rather than the full offence.
“You are now 78 years of age and you have never been in in trouble of any sort, and you have health difficulties. In all other respects you seem to have conducted yourself in a respectable way.”