Letzgo Hunting target James Stone jailed for child sex abuse
A child abuser from Nottingham who was confronted by anti-paedophile activists has been jailed for eight years.
Nottingham Crown Court heard James Stone, 24, of Upper Parliament Street, admitted seven offences including sexual activity with a child.
Stone was filmed by a group called Letzgo Hunting after members posed as a schoolgirl during web chats.
But police said the footage played no part in the case and they acted after the victim's mother contacted them.
Letzgo Hunting said they became involved after the 15-year-old girl's mother came to them over grooming concerns.
Posing as a 14 year old, the group swapped messages with Stone in which he admitted engaging in sexual activity with the girl.
'Wanted my mum'
Members then confronted Stone at the pub where he worked.
Police said he admitted posing as a 16-year-old boy in an online chat room in a bid to contact the girl.
When the conversation moved to instant messaging, he took her to his flat where she was manipulated into performing sexual acts.
Stone pleaded guilty in court to meeting a child following sexual grooming, two counts of sexual assault with a child, one count of sexual activity with a child, two counts of possession of indecent photographs of a child and one count of possessing an extreme pornographic image.
The CPS said that as he admitted his guilt early in the proceedings, no evidence from Letzgo Hunting was presented in court.
Prosecuting, Tina Dempster told the court Stone had asked the girl for sexual photos of herself and when they met in March had led her to believe they would be going to a cinema or restaurant.
She added: "They sat and watched films on his bed before he forced her to perform sexual acts on him.
"The girl said she was scared and too frightened to say too much."
'Hiding in phone'
In interviews the teenager told police: "He hadn't respected me or anything. I felt numb. I didn't know what to do. I was frightened. I just wanted my mum at the time."
In mitigation, Adrian Langdale said Stone had "suffered a trial by public jury in many ways" after video footage of him from Letzgo Hunting was put online.
He added: "Already his name has been made widely public.
"He has been pilloried from the beginning to the end and he has been incarcerated for his own protection because of threats from the group and other individuals."
Sentencing him, Judge Joan Butler QC said Stone had taken advantage of a girl lacking in self-esteem and "went about a campaign of grooming".
"I accept you didn't force her and you didn't use any violence but that wasn't necessary because you had groomed her so well," she said.
"An organisation became involved and got in contact with you and pretended to be young girls. You were grooming them in the same way as you had groomed the complainant in this case."
Speaking after sentencing, police cautioned against vigilante activity.
A spokesperson for Nottinghamshire Police said: "We're seeing a worrying increase in those who think they can take the law into their own hands when it comes to these types of internet grooming cases.
"Posting videos online of alleged offenders not only risks the safety of that person and their family, but can also compromise any subsequent criminal proceedings."
Det Insp Martin Hillier from Nottinghamshire Police, who led the case, said it was important for people to report offences such as Stone's to the police.
He added: "James Stone not only preyed upon his young victim under the guise of a schoolboy, he did it in the family home and during school time, under the noses of the adults in her life, because James Stone was hiding in her mobile phone.
"He groomed and manipulated her into doing things she would never do, before luring her to his home and taking advantage of her in the very worst way."
Letzgo Hunting previously denied any blame for the death of Gary Cleary, who was found hanged at his Leicestershire home on 13 May after the group gathered evidence he was a sex offender.
On Thursday, Letzgo Hunting put a statement on its Facebook page that it had "suspended all hunting activity" indefinitely.
An Inside Out documentary on Letzgo Hunting will be broadcast on BBC One in the Midlands on Monday 23 September at 19:30 BST.