Mob descended on pervert's home after 'shameful and disgusting' messages

Kevin Wilkes
Kevin Wilkes -Credit:Child Online Safety Team

An angry mob descended on a pervert's house after he was caught engaging in lewd chats with a '13-year-old girl' on Facebook and WhatsApp.

Kevin Wilkes sent the supposed teenager pictures of himself in compromising positions during a "shameful and disgusting" string of messages. But, unbeknown to him, he was actually communicating with a decoy account set up by paedophile hunters.

Liverpool Crown Court heard this afternoon, Thursday, that the 58-year-old was caught participating in explicit conversations on the social media site and messaging app with a profile set up by the Child Online Safety Team. These saw Wilkes - of no fixed address, but formerly of Johnson Avenue in Prescot - send photographs of himself in his boxers and dressing gown and request images of the girl in her underwear and school uniform.

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Christopher Taylor, prosecuting, described how the sex offender "made references to his d***, being horny and pornography" - which he described as "sexy videos". He also asked the so-called teen to delete their messages, saying: "Your mum wouldn't like it that you're talking to me."

Wilkes was then confronted by members of the group at his workplace on February 10 this year. This saw the hunters "call the company stating that they were family members calling about an emergency" before live streaming on Facebook as they approached him outside.

Just over a month later on March 12, this footage "led to an incident at the defendant's address, where police officers were injured". This saw a "large crowd" gather outside the property before he was "removed to a place of safety".

Wilkes was remanded into custody for his "own protection and welfare" following a subsequent appearance before the magistrates' court. He has two previous convictions, receiving four months for indecent assault in 1986 and being fined for drink driving in 1988.

Carmel Wilde, defending, told the court that her client had previously acted as a carer to his father, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, and added: "He does accept that his behaviour was shameful and disgusting. He does want some help with his thoughts.

"He does want to address why he has offended in this way. He is a man with some convictions, albeit from some time ago.

"Perhaps the most humiliating experience for him, rightly or wrongly, was the fact that the paedophile hunters sought him out at work under the false pretence that there was a family emergency. He thought they were connected to the police.

"He was very open and frank. He was called a dirty, rotten man and disgusting.

"He was told that he won't see his grandchildren, that this is going to be shared all over the country. You're lucky it's not my daughters, I would have taken your head off.

"You wouldn't have been found. They won't like this in Huyton.

"Get ready for the thin mattress in prison. You won't be allowed your shoes and belt.

"There are paedophile hunter groups out there who act with dignity. This isn't one of them.

"A hostile crowd gathered outside his house and damaged was caused. He fears for his family who live nearby and fears that they will not be able to live an ordinary life because of their connection to him.

"He has a house, although the police have said it is not safe for him to go back there. He could be in a position to put himself in a hotel or a B&B until he can sell his house.

"The defendant accepts that there is absolutely no excuse for what he has done. He is not putting any emphasis on what was done, but it is about his family.

"The breakdown of his marriage and depression played a factor. Alcohol became a dependant."

Wilkes admitted attempting to engage in sexual communications with a child and attempting to incite a child to engage in sexual activity. Appearing via video link to HMP Altcourse, he was handed an eight-month imprisonment suspended for 18 months with a rehabilitation activity requirement of up to 10 days and a programme requirement.

Sentencing, Judge David Swinnerton said: "You obviously realised that what you were doing was wrong. It is aggravated, of course, by the fact that you have previous convictions, but it was a long time ago.

"Is it an offence for which only an immediate custodial sentence is appropriate? Some would argue maybe, some would argue yes, no doubt.

"At the scene, you made very full admissions when challenged for 31 minutes by the group carrying out their sting. You have been pretty frank, and that would suggest it is possible to try and work with you on why it was that you found yourself, as a divorced man with children, behaving like this to someone else's children.

"I am not sure that you would have enjoyed your child being treated in this way. Overall, I take the view that this is a sentence I can and will suspend.

"What I want you to do is focus on your rehabilitation and the openness and honesty over what you did wrong. If you do anything like this again then you are almost undoubtedly going to prison."

The ECHO previously reported that Merseyside Police attended the scene after receiving reports of concerns for the safety of a man in his 50s who had been assaulted. His vehicle was also said to have been damaged after a crowd gathered in the area.

Neighbours living on the estate reported seeing "around 20 police cars" and officers lined up "shoulder to shoulder" at either end of the street in an attempt to control the crowd. A 37-year-old, from Whiston, was arrested on suspicion of possession of cannabis and obstructing a police officer following during the incident but was subsequently released under investigation.

Judge Swinnerton added of the paedophile hunter group: "Some of them behave carefully and with dignity. Such groups need to be careful that their actions do not lead to the sort of thing that happened here, where a large group gathered outside Mr Wilkes' home - resulting in a public order incident and, I believe, injury to police officers.

"That is wholly unacceptable. Groups such as this need to be careful to behave within the confines of the law.

"They must be careful that they do so in a proper way, otherwise they are undermining their own purpose. No one wants to encourage vigilantism and the risk of public order - it is a concerning feature of this case."

Wilkes was also given a 10-year sexual harm prevention order. He will be required to sign the sex offenders' register for the next decade.

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