A respectable granddad who engaged in explicit internet chat with what he believed was a 15-year-old girl has been spared jail.
Wallace Jukes, 70, sent a series of suggestive messages to a fake social media account set up to catch out men trying to groom underage girls.
Over a period of five days he asked for naked pictures, how big her breasts were and suggested they meet up at Seaton Carew’s clock tower.
Teesside Crown Court heard how Jukes, who has been married for 49 years, worked hard in industry and volunteered for a local charity for 11 years, has had a ‘spectacular fall from grace’.
In the end, Jukes did not go through with trying to meet the girl he knew as ‘Rach’ after having second thoughts.
But the person who set up the fake account reported him to the police and he was arrested.
Jukes pleaded guilty to one charge of attempted sexual communication with a child.
Prosecutor Harry Hadfield said: “The person purporting to be Rach told the defendant that she was 15 years of age and he provided WhatsApp details.
“The conversation and exchange on WhatsApp quickly became sexual.
“He asked if she was into naked pictures and to send pictures.” Mr Hadfield went on: “He asked her how big her breasts were, what size bra she wore and to take pictures of her breasts.
“He suggested meeting in his car. He asked if she wanted sex.”
The court heard there were arrangements to meet up on February 20 last year but Jukes said he thought he would get into trouble with the police and did not go through with it.
Paul Cleasby, defending, said in mitigation it was just fantasy chat and Jukes never intended to take matters further, adding at the time of the supposed meeting he was playing golf.
Mr Cleasby said: “By his plea he has suffered a spectacular fall from grace.
“For these five days over a period of 70 years, Mr Jukes has brought disgrace on himself and tarnished his good reputation.
“He is thoroughly ashamed of himself.”
Mr Cleasby added the case has been so humiliating for Jukes that the court could be sure he was unlikely to offend again.
Following Jukes’ plea, social services has carried out safeguarding investigations, but no concerns have been raised.
But he will be on the sex offenders’ register for five years.
Jukes, of Oakland Avenue, Hartlepool, was also made the subject of a two-year community order, given 15 days of rehabilitation activity and must pay £635 costs.
Judge Howard Crowson said the ‘outrageous behaviour’ deserved custody but he was swayed by Jukes’ mitigation and recommendation from the probation service.
Judge Crowson said: “At times your language was relatively pressing in your attempts to get your way.
“It’s a very serious offence to speak in a sexual way to a child.
“The loss of your good character and the impression people will have now of you is a very different one.”