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Sentence delayed for Nairn man snared by paedophile hunters

By Ali Morrison

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A 48-YEAR-OLD man has to wait a few more days to learn his fate after “confusing and contradictory” information contained in two reports prepared about him.

Kevin Johnston, who was snared by a paedophile hunting group after trying to groom young girls to send him indecent photographs of themselves, was told “custody is uppermost in the court’s mind”.

Sheriff Eilidh Macdonald told Johnston, who lives in Nairn: “These are serious matters and I have to be sure that I have the correct information before moving to sentence.”

Johnston will return to court on June 7 and had his bail continued until the discrepancies between the sex offenders’ programme assessment and the background report are clarified.

At a previous hearing, Inverness Sheriff Court heard that the under-age teenagers he targeted were actually decoys from “Hunting Online Predators Everyday”, known as ‘HOPE.’ It was only when a “sting operation” was being planned to confront Johnston with their evidence, the hunters realised that he was their target in two separate decoy missions.

The court heard that after police raided his then-home in Califer Road, Forres and seized phones and a computer, it was discovered that he had also targeted other under-age girls. The court heard that two of them could not be traced. It is not known if they were also decoys.

Johnston admitted communicating sexually with children or people he believed to be children between March 25, 2020 and July 4, 2020.

Defence solicitor Grant Daglish said of Johnston, who was immediately placed on the sex offenders’ register: “He was not actively searching for these age groups. The website was for over-18s. He has now lost everything – his relationship, his son, his circle of friends, his job.”

Fiscal depute Robert Weir said that the decoys made it clear on chat and dating websites how old they were pretending to be and did not initiate sexual communications.

Mr Weir said Johnston tried to persuade the girls to send him ‘naughty pictures’ of themselves.

In one instance with an unidentified girl, Mr Weir said: “he continues to send sexual messages for three months trying to get a response.”

Mr Weir added: “For his own safety, Johnston agreed to attend at Elgin Police Station on a voluntary basis. When interviewed, he admitted to engaging with females of all ages on various applications and websites sending sexual chat and videos of himself, despite some stating they were aged between 13 and 16. He claimed he was not sexually attracted to children, he was merely bored and did not consider the consequences of his actions. He denied any contact offences with children.”

View our fact sheet on court reporting here

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