Gainsborough man caught by paedophile hunters after travelling 140 miles to meet schoolgirl for sex

Jailed: John Armitage
Jailed: John Armitage

A convicted sex offender has been jailed after travelling 140 miles to meet a 14-year-old schoolgirl - only to find himself caught by paedophile hunters.

John Armitage, who had previously served a jail sentence for offences against two young girls, was expecting to meet a girl called Ellie for sex after travelling by train from his home town of Gainsborough to Newcastle upon Tyne.

Lincoln Crown Court

Lincoln Crown Court

But instead when he arrived at Newcastle railway station he discovered he was the victim of a sting. He was confronted and then arrested after police were called to the station.

Phil Howes, prosecuting at Lincoln Crown Court, said Armitage had initially contacted "Ellie" on a dating app for over-18s.

In a series of messages he was told she was only 14 but persisted and said he wanted to meet her for sex telling her he would "be gentle".

Armitage suggested he contact her school pretending to be her father and arrange for her to have a week off so that they could be together.

But the court was told that "Ellie" was actually a member of the Net Justice Group using a fake profile to trap paedophiles.

John Armitage, 40, of Warren Close, admitted a charge of attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming together with a further offence of attempting to cause or incite a child to engage in sexual activity with a child. Both charges relate to the period between March 12 and April 14 last year.

He also pleaded guilty to three charges of making a total of 958 indecent photographs of a child between September 2015 and April 2018. The images included 164 assessed as being in the most serious category. He admitted further charges of possession of a prohibited image of a child and possession of cannabis.

The court was told that he had a previous conviction in 2008 when he was given a four-year sentence at Leeds Crown Court for sexual assault charges relating to two girls under the age of 13. He also has two convictions for failing to comply with the sex offender registration notification requirements and a further conviction for outraging public decency.

He was sentenced to five years and nine months which includes three years and nine months' custody plus an extra two years on licence during which he will be at risk of being returned to prison.

Judge Simon Hirst imposed an indefinite sexual harm prevention order and placed him on the sex offenders' register for life.

He told him: "Ellie told you she was 14 and her mum was very strict. She said she was from Newcastle and you suggested you meet up for a kiss and a cuddle.

"There was discussion about how you liked having sex and Ellie told you that she didn't know girls of her age did that.

"Over the next days the conversation continued about what sexual things you wanted to do with her.

"This case is aggravated by the persistent nature of the communications including you suggesting that you pretend to be Ellie's father and ring her school. You told her to have a week off school.

"You travelled to Newcastle intent on having sex with a 14-year-old girl.

"Plainly your offending is so serious that only immediate custody can be imposed."

Christopher Dickins, in mitigation, said: "He accepts that he wanted a full sexual relationship. He is deeply sorry.

"He instructs me that at the time he was self-medicating for depression and anxiety but he has now got that on an even keel."