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Man sentenced to three years probation at Inverness Sheriff Court after being snared by paedophile hunters Guardians of the North in online sting

By Court Reporter

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A MAN snared in a trap set by a “paedophile hunter” group has narrowly avoided being sent to prison.

Steven Williams (52) of Galloway Drive, Inverness, thought he was sending explicit sexual texts to a 13-year-old through Facebook Messenger.

However, he was in fact communicating with a 38-year-old woman who was a member of the vigilante group Guardians of the North.

Williams appeared at Inverness Sheriff Court where he admitted communicating with a person he believed was underage for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification.

The court was told he sent a number of sexual texts and images between July and November last year.

Depute fiscal David Morton told Sheriff Margaret Neilson at an earlier hearing that the woman purporting to be the teenage girl communicated almost daily with Williams before ceasing the messaging and passing evidence she had gathered to the police.

“The sexually explicit messages started off with the accused asking for a picture of her nightie, then her knickers,” he said.

“He then asked for a picture of her naked, but she did not send one.”

The fiscal added that the messages became more sexually explicit over time and he also told the “girl” that he “couldn’t wait to hold and touch her”.

On one occasion, the fiscal said, Williams sent a picture which appeared to be a diagram of a female reproductive organ.

The last message received from Williams was on November 20 last year when he replied to a message the woman sent, saying she was “off school ‘cause I slept in”.

His reply was: “Nice 1. A better day for ya than horrid school.”

At that point the police were contacted and Williams was arrested.

Sentence was deferred last month for the purpose of obtaining background reports.

Yesterday he was sentenced to three years supervision and ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work after social workers recommended a community-based punishment.

He will also be placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register for three years.

Defence solicitor Marc Dickson said his client led an isolated life.

Although he pointed out to the court that there was no actual child involved in the case, he admitted on Williams’ behalf that his actions had been “deeply inappropriate”.

He added: “His social isolation was, in part, due to alcohol consumption and it seems many of the sexual messages were sent when he was disinhibited by alcohol.”

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