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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

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Man jailed for grooming underage girls after police 'sting' operation

Howard Blackburn, 27, of St Leonard's Court, Cockermouth, was given a four-year sentence after admitting three charges of attempting to incite a child into engaging in sexual activity.

Howard Blackburn
Blackburn, 27, was given a four-year sentence

Blackburn had groomed three different girls - all under 16 - by contacting them on dating and social networking site Badoo.

The messages he sent were extremely explicit and encouraged them to take part in sexual activity by themselves and with Blackburn.

Police discovered the Blackburn had been doing this after he contacted the website profile of an officer posing as a 13-year-old girl. Even after informing Blackburn of this fictional age, he continued sending explicit messages.

Tim Evans, prosecuting, told the court one exchange ended: “Don’t tell anyone, lol.”

After exchanging more messages, he arranged to meet the fictional girl in a telephone box at Whitehaven railway station in August this year.

When he arrived there, he was arrested by officers.

They then carried out a search of his property and seized his computer equipment.

Officers also found a bag of cocaine worth £450, which Blackburn said for his own personal use.

Blackburn had admitted three charges of attempting to incite a child in sexual activity, and a separate charge of possessing a class A drug.Relating to the police operation he admitted a charge of attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming, and attempting to cause or incite a child to engage in sexual activity.

Brendan Burke, defending, said Blackburn had had more than 1,000 conversations of a sexual nature over the website and only three had been with underage girls.

“That is fair evidence that he wasn’t online with the sole attention of targeting children,” said Mr Burke.

Mr Burke also said his client had been using alcohol and cocaine following the break-up of a relationship. “He was operating in an alcohol and drug induced state.”

Judge Peter Hughes QC, presiding, said: “I am told that investigations on your computer revealed that the you had over 1,500 such conversations and most of them, if not all of them, involved sexual discussion of the most intimate and extreme nature.”

He accepted most of Blackburn’s online chats were with adults but said they would still be unacceptable to many people.

Blackburn also had to sign the sex offenders register and became subject of a prevention order.

Speaking after the sentence, Detective Chief Inspector Rob O’Connor, said: “Blackburn’s arrest and sentence should send a real strong message out to others like him that we are watching them, and we will target them.”

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