Paedophile's 'sex chat' case is among the 'worst' judge has seen

Sean Attenborough's police mugshot <i>(Image: Thames Valley Police)</i>
Sean Attenborough's police mugshot (Image: Thames Valley Police)

A judge questioned why the Crown Prosecution Service had charged a paedophile with a lesser charge – when the more serious one was seemingly made-out.

Recorder Paul Reid told prosecutor Honor Fitzgerald it could be seen as ‘potentially inadequate’ that a convicted paedophile who tried to meet a 13-year-old ‘girl’ in a hotel for sex was only charged with attempting to incite a child to engage in non-penetrative sexual activity.

Dealing with Sean Attenborough for his third set of sex convictions in seven years, the judge said: “Perhaps you could communicate to the Crown Prosecution Service my remarks about this because it seems to me that the charge is or could be described as potentially inadequate.”

He added: “I’ve come across many cases like this. This is one of the very worst and it’s also the first in my experience [where] the undercover police officer has actually spoken on the telephone to the defendant.”

Earlier, the court heard that Attenborough was subject to a suspended prison sentence, imposed in January, when he began talking to what he thought was a young woman on chatroom website Chatiw. He asked her if she liked ‘older men’.

Their conversation moved to the Snapchat app, when the ‘girl’ told Attenborough she was actually 13 years old.

She was, in fact, an undercover police officer patrolling the net to catch would-be paedophiles.

Attenborough was firmly caught in the officer’s net. He repeatedly asked for pictures of herself with her ‘onesie’ pyjamas unzipped to her waist.

He encouraged her to perform sex acts on herself, offered to send images of his naked genitalia and repeatedly talked about meeting in a hotel to have sex with her.

Unusually in such investigations, the defendant and the ‘girl’ also spoke on the telephone.

Attenborough, of no fixed address, was arrested in September. His devices were analysed and he was found to have a small number of indecent images of children.

By using the digital kit, which had not been registered with the police, to contact a supposed child he was in breach of a sexual harm prevention order imposed earlier this year.

He pleaded guilty at the magistrates’ court in September to breaching his sexual harm prevention order, attempted sexual communication with a child, attempting to incite a girl to engage in sexual activity and .

A pre-sentence report compiled by the probation service was described by the judge as ‘very damning’. Attenborough was regarded as posing a ‘high risk of causing serious harm’.

Mitigating, Dana Bilan said her client had not yet started the sex offender treatment programme – Horizon – when he was arrested in the autumn.

The father-of-two grown up children was said to be ‘realistic’ and understood the sentence could only be an immediate custodial one.

Recorder Reid jailed him for a total of 44 months, including activating an earlier eight month sentence.

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.

To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @t_seaward