Judge concerned over ‘sinister’ intent of man’s Cornish trip

A MAN with a “somewhat sinister” predilection for underage girls travelled from the North-East to Cornwall believing he was going to meet a 13-year-old for sex.

Ian Russell, 58 at the time, was under the impression he had been communicating on social media with the girl’s father, ‘MichaelAKA’, who apparently shared his unhealthy paedophilic interest.

Durham Crown Court was told Russell believed he had his blessing to travel to the south-west for a liaison with his daughter and also, possibly, with her younger sisters.

Russell arranged to go to the small Cornish town of Hayle, where a camper van was to be parked near the railway station, for the meeting to take place away from the girls’ mother.

Jane Waugh, prosecuting, said he had told the man who he believed to be their’ father that he was looking forward to his visit and meeting his daughters, “for fun”.

He travelled to Cornwall in early August, 2108, but, reaching Hayle, despite alerting MichaelAKA, there was no-one to greet him, no camper van and he received no replies to his messages informing him of his arrival.

Police confirmed the journey did take place, through number plater recognition.

It also emerged he had planned another such trip, to Ireland to meet another 13-year-old who was described as, “sexually active”, from someone claiming to be the girl’s father.

The Cornish trip and the planned visit to Ireland came to light after police examined electronic devices confiscated on visits to Russell’s home in Northlands, Chester-le-Street, in October, 2018, and June, last year.

Miss Waugh said the seized devices were found to contain more than 400 downloaded indecent child images, 107 in the most serious category, including 88 videos.

Some of these were shared by Russell, who also had extreme pornographic images.

Miss Waugh said police inquiries failed to locate any of the people who communicated with Russell.

Now aged 60, he admitted attempting to meet a child after grooming, two charges each of possessing indecent images of children and possessing extreme pornography and nine counts of distribution.

Deborah Smithies, mitigating, said Russell, a divorcee, is of previous good character and recently began working as a spray painter.

She said Russell was communicating and sharing images with “a finite” number of like-minded individuals and it has not been established if any of these people are who they claim to be.

Judge James Adkin, who said he had concerns over the “somewhat sinister” nature of the offences, imposed a four-year prison sentence with an extended three-year licence period. Russell must serve two-thirds of the custodial element before he can be considered for parole.

He will also be subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order, and notification as a sex offender, both indefinitely.

The Northern Echo | Durham