A former St John’s Ambulance man has been given a suspended prison sentence after admitting to online chats with two under-age ‘girls’.
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John Peter Noble, 34, from Ripon, used messenger apps to entice the ‘girls’ into disturbing online behaviour for his own sexual gratification.
In fact, the two females were adults - one of them a bank clerk - who were working as decoys for paedophile-hunter groups, York Crown Court heard.
Prosecutor Nick Adlington said Noble urged the ‘girls’ - whose online profiles purported them to be 12 and 14 years’ old respectively - to carry out sexual acts on themselves and send him lewd photos.
During the online exchanges, the two vigilantes - one working solo and the other working for the Angels of Innocence vigilante group - told Noble “from the outset” that they were under-age.
Noble, of North Street, was reported to police and identified through the telephone number linked to his Whatsapp account.
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He was arrested at his home in July when police seized digital devices including a smartphone.
He made no comment in police interview but ultimately admitted six charges including two counts of trying to incite an under-age girl to engage in sexual activity, two counts of attempting to communicate with the ‘girls’ and making four indecent images of a child.
The court heard he had also distributed an indecent image to another user on the KIK instant-messaging app.
He appeared for sentence on Thursday dressed in a grey suit, open-neck white shirt and tie.
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The court heard that one of the decoys, a bank clerk who was named in court, used a fake online identity to dupe Noble into thinking she was a 14-year-old girl.
The decoy told police that Noble - whose username on KIK and Whatsapp was ‘Young P’ - appeared to be “obsessed” with her young alter ego.
As well as urging her to perform acts on herself, Noble had asked her to “wear various items of clothing at various times of the day”, added Mr Adlington.
The other decoy, a woman who was also named, was operating on the KIK messenger service under the username “Lacy Lu” – a fictional 12-year-old girl.
“The (online) chat (with the ‘girl’) appears to have become sexual on the part of (Noble) despite the fact that (the decoy) stated from the outset that she was 12 years of age,” added Mr Adlington.
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“During the course of that conversation the defendant asked what he believed to be a 12-year-old girl to do various things to herself, suggesting sexual things he would like to do with her, as well as asking her to send pictures of herself.”
The chats with “Lacy Lu”, the younger of the ‘girls’, lasted a few months. The chats with the older ‘girl’ lasted only a matter of days, the court heard.
Mr Adlington said Noble had displayed “clear grooming behaviour” towards both ‘girls’.
Abbi Whelan, for Noble, said he was a man of previous good character who had formerly worked with the St John’s Ambulance charity.
Judge Sean Morris said it was clear that Noble was attracted to under-age girls.
However, he said the former St John’s Ambulance man had made strides towards rehabilitation, had led a “hitherto positive life” and done good works with the first-aid charity.
“The easy option would be to lock you up, but nothing would be done (in terms of rehabilitation),” added Mr Morris.
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Noble was given a two-year suspended jail sentence with a 35-day rehabilitation course and ordered to undergo a separate programme in which he will be monitored by police and the Probation Service.
He was placed on the sex-offenders’ register for 10 years and made subject to a five-year sexual-harm prevention order designed to curb his online activities and contact with under-age girls.