Dark Justice sting paedophile John Rudd jailed

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Media captionJohn Rudd knew the girl was under age when he arranged to meet her, as Danny Savage reports

A man who thought he was meeting a 14-year-old girl but was being tricked by a group of internet paedophile hunters has been jailed for a year.

John Rudd contacted a fake profile set up by the group Dark Justice and arranged to meet a girl he knew was under age, Newcastle Crown Court heard.

But when the 57-year-old from Stockton arrived to meet her he was confronted by men with a video camera.

He was later charged with attempting to meet a child after sexual grooming.

The court heard Rudd was arrested by police near the Millennium Bridge in Newcastle minutes after being confronted by the men in November.

'Feel stupid'

Rudd admitted the offence and, as well as being jailed for a year, was put on the sex offenders register for 10 years.

Dark Justice, which describes itself as a group of concerned citizens, created a profile on the site Badoo in the name Donna.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Dark Justice members created a profile on the website Badoo

When Rudd was caught, Dark Justice filmed him saying: "I just feel stupid."

Gavin Doig, prosecuting, said Rudd contacted "Donna" on the over-18s site and continued to do so after being told she was only 14.

The court heard there were 130 pages of messages between Rudd and Donna in which he made several sexual references.

Rudd talked about sharing a bath, asked intimate questions and suggested she did not wear underwear when they met.

Bullet-proof vests

Judge Penny Moreland said Rudd's messaging was "a textbook example of sexual grooming".

She said "You were attentive, flattering, kind and thoughtful and meanwhile you turned the conversation, when you could, to sexual matters.

"I accept no child was actually harmed by what you did, but your behaviour was persistent and you believed yourself to be engaging in contact with a girl of 14."

Paul Caulfield, mitigating, said Rudd had recently been bereaved, was drinking heavily and was "flattered" by the messages.

Speaking after the case, Det Supt George Duff of Northumbria Police said the force did not advocate people carrying out their own investigations due to the "many risks associated".

"These groups are not aware of full details of the person they are dealing with, they have no way of safeguarding potential child victims and their actions could jeopardise ongoing police investigations, not to mention the risks posed to themselves," he said.

"They can also lead to the diverting of significant resources into protecting suspects, which would be better invested in investigating and prosecuting suspected offenders."

Members of Dark Justice revealed outside the court they wear bullet-proof vests for their meetings.

They were in court to watch the proceedings, and one of the activists, calling himself Scott, said outside: "I didn't think he would go to prison - it just shows what we do works.

"I am upset his life has been destroyed but he would have destroyed a little girl's life."