Man who sent sexual messages to 'underage girls' has sentence reduced

Paul Hart sent messages to two adult 'decoys' acting as young girls.

Man caught sending sexual messages to ‘underage girls’ has sentence reduced Feixianhu via iStock

A sex offender who was caught by online paedophile hunters when he thought he was in contact with underage girls had his jail sentence reduced by appeal judges.

Paul Hart from Glasgow sent sexual messages to two adult women through social media believing they were young girls before attempting to meet up with one of his targets at the city’s Queen Street railway station.

The women were decoys working on behalf of online child protection groups, judges at the Court of Appeal in Edinburgh were told.

Hart, of Allison Street in Govanhill, was later jailed for 30 months by a sheriff after admitting three sex crimes.

The sheriff told the 45-year-old that he would have faced a 40 month prison term but it would be reduced following his guilty pleas.

He was also given a supervised release order for a further 12 months following his custodial sentence.

He admitted two charges of attempting to communicate indecently with children between September and December in 2020 and a further offence of attempting to meet a person aged under 16 at the train station on December 19 of that year with the intention of engaging in unlawful sexual behaviour.

Lawyers acting for the first offender brought a legal challenge against the sentence imposed on him for the child sex offences. 

Defence solicitor advocate Simon Collins argued that the starting point of 40 months taken by the sheriff in sentencing was “excessive” and maintained that a greater discount should have been given for the guilty pleas.

He said Hart had  ended up homeless and living in isolated circumstances during the pandemic and was still trying to understand how he came to be in the position that the offences occurred.

Mr Collins said: “Although these are serious offences I would submit the 40 month starting point was excessive.”

Lord Pentland, sitting with Lord Matthews, said there was a substantial planning and calculation involved in the offending directed towards the attempted sexual exploitation of vulnerable children.

They rejected the submission that the starting point taken by the sheriff in sentencing was excessive given the gravity and persistence of the conduct involved and the lack of insight shown.

But they agreed to give a greater discount for the pleas tendered in the case and quashed the 30 month jail term imposed and reduced Hart’s sentence to 26 months.

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