A MAN has been given a suspended prison sentence  for online child abuse offences.

John Gilbert, 53, was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment – suspended for two years – at York Magistrates’ Court on Friday (October 15) after pleading guilty on September 17.

The three offences included being an adult attempting to meet a girl under 16 years of age following grooming; attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child; and attempting to cause a child aged 13 to 15 to watch and look at an image of sexual activity.

They were committed between September 2 and September 14 while Gilbert was engaged in online chats with a person who he believed to be a 13-year-old girl.

North Yorkshire Police said that during these conversations, Gilbert, from Scarborough, sent sexual images, engaged in sexualised chat and made arrangements to meet the girl.

What Gilbert had not realised was that he was communicating with the police throughout this time.

An operation was carried out on September 16 to arrest him and a search warrant was executed at his home address.

Gilbert’s smart phone was examined by the Digital Forensic Unit. They were able to recover key evidence that proved he had been involved in the online child sexual abuse activity using a variety of dating and messaging applications.

Police Constable Francesca Diffey, of the Online Abuse and Exploitation Team based at Scarborough, led the investigation which secured the conviction.

PC Diffey said: “It is clear from the investigation that Gilbert has an active sexual interest in children and that he presents a very real danger to society.

“Through the work of the police, we were able to intervene before he preyed on young victims.

“We have also ensured that Gilbert has been made subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order and he is on the Sex Offenders’ Register.

“This means he will be closely managed by strict public protection measures.”