AN ‘ENTHUSIASTIC’ paedophile caught by a vigilante hunter group has been jailed for six years.
Stuart Hope-Kirk, 55, was snared by the group Silent Justice after one of its members posed as an 11-year-old girl called Petra.
Portsmouth Crown Court heard he contacted the girl and ‘almost immediately’ starting suggesting sex.
He swapped messages with someone he believed to be a girl, sending her a video of him performing a sexual act.
‘It’s clear that he was, if I can put it this way, enthusiastic and persistent in the process,’ judge Stephen Climie said.
Hope-Kirk was caught at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, with members of Silent Justice filming him on mobile phones.
Prosecutor Daniel Sawyer yesterday said: ‘At the culmination of the communication there has been an arrangement to meet.
‘There was a group waiting for the defendant, several of the men got out mobile phone and kept him there until the police arrived.’
Jason Hallsey, mitigating, said Hope-Kirk had been in a ‘mature adult relationship’ but that his mental health had plummeted when his wife died.
In 2012 he was on his way home from a hospital after his wife died when a newly-qualified driver went the wrong way down a dual carriageway and crashed into him and died.
He admitted attempting to cause or incite a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity and attempting to cause a child to watch sexual activity.
Judge Climie said: ‘The offences to which you pleaded guilty are, as you know, extremely serious.’
He was jailed for six years, including a one-year term from a suspended sentence for fraud. The judge imposed a sexual harm prevention order and he must sign the sex offenders’ register, both until further order.
A Sussex police spokesman said: ‘So-called paedophile hunters are taking risks they don’t understand and can undermine police investigations.
‘Most importantly, unlike our officers, they have no way of safeguarding child victims.
‘Our approach to these groups has not changed. We may work with these groups in certain instances, if it helps us protect children and we can manage the risks of their involvement.
‘But revealing the identity of suspected paedophiles gives the suspect the opportunity to destroy evidence before the police can investigate them.’