Jail sentence for renowned Ripon and Harrogate music teacher caught by paedophile hunters

David Wesling, 45, from Ripon, was found guilty of online sexual activity with the girl following a trial in August.
David Wesling, 45, from Ripon, was found guilty of online sexual activity with the girl following a trial in August.

A renowned cellist and music teacher who told a '12-year-old girl’ he wanted to be her sex slave during chats over the internet has been jailed for 12 months.

David Wesling, 45, from Ripon, was found guilty of online sexual activity with the ‘girl’ following a trial in August. Wesling - a former cellist/chorister with the Ripon Cathedral Choir - appeared for sentence at York Crown Court on Friday knowing a jail sentence was on the cards.

During Wesling’s trial, it emerged that the married father-of-two had found what he thought was the profile of an under-age girl on a website called ‘Chat Hour’ and started messaging her.

In fact, the ‘girl’ was a member of Keeping Kids Safe (KKS), a vigilante group set up to uncover online predators. After messaging the ‘girl’ on ‘Chat Hour’, Wesling - a peripatetic and private music teacher who has taught at several leading schools in Ripon, Harrogate and Knaresborough - contacted her on Whatsapp, the encrypted messenger service, bombarding her with requests for intimate photos and asking her if she wanted to see him naked.

Prosecutor Paul Newcombe said the disgraced musical virtuoso, a former Royal Northern College of Music student, made repeated attempts to see a “full-body picture” of the girl. The ‘girl’ was in fact a grandmother from South Wales who pretended to be a child, added Mr Newcombe.

The “decoy”, a member of KKS’s Wales branch, told Wesling her camera had broken so she didn’t have to send him pictures, but repeatedly told him she was 12 years’ old, was off school due to sickness and was “with her nan”.

But this didn’t stop Wesling, who told the ‘girl’ not to tell anyone about their online chats. Members of the English branch of the vigilante group received a tip-off from the decoy in Wales about “a male deemed to be a threat to children” and went to Wesling’s home.

They contacted police who arrived and were presented with chat-log evidence by the “paedophile hunters”. Wesling pleaded his innocence, claiming he was merely carrying out “classic role-play” and “fantasy”, and insisting he thought the person “at the other end” was 18 or over because that was the age she gave on her profile.

But evidence provided by KKS included a profile picture of a real 12-year-old girl which the decoy had used on the chat site.

Wesling was arrested and ultimately charged with three counts of attempting to incite a child under 13 years of age to watch a sexual act, one count of attempting to communicate with a child and one count of attempting to incite a child to engage in sexual activity. The offences occurred between January 10 and February 4 this year.

Wesling admitted the naked video calls. He said he had viewed pornography online “a long time ago” but claimed he had no sexual interest in children. But Mr Newcombe said there was evidence that Wesling had been on several websites in 2014 looking for “pre-teen” material.

Wesling told police he was a “well-known teacher and a law-abiding citizen”. Mr Newcombe said that Wesling - who was found guilty of all five counts following a three-day trial - had been “chasing the thrill” of chatting to a pre-teen girl.

Defence barrister Richard Canning said Wesling had no previous convictions and was still adamant that he was innocent. “He has lost his livelihood (and) his reputation (due to these offences),” added Mr Canning.

Judge Sean Morris said Wesling had been convicted on “overwhelming evidence that you were communicating with a 12-year-old child”. He said that because Wesling had taken the case to trial and still refused to accept his guilt, an immediate jail sentence was inevitable.

Wesling will serve half of the 12-month sentence behind bars before being released on licence.

He was also made subject to a five-year sexual-harm prevention order, mainly to curb his internet activities.