A Leamington hairdresser who had sex with a 15-year-old boy he had met through a gay contact website has been jailed.
Darren George had pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to taking part in sexual communication with the boy when he was 14 and sexual activity with him when he was 15.
George, 48,, of Whitnash, Leamington, was jailed for eight months and ordered to register as a sex offender for 10 years.
Prosecutor Graeme Simpson said the offences took place over a period of some ten weeks in 2017, after George began communicating with the boy on a gay contact website.
The site is specifically for adults, but George accepted that in one of the many messages they exchanged, the boy asked him whether he minded that he was 14.
George, who said he did not recall the message, continued to chat to the boy who would also ask him to buy tobacco and alcohol for him, which he accepted he did on occasions.
He entered his guilty pleas on the basis that it was the boy who was taking the lead, contacting him most of the time, and that he ‘bitterly regrets not being more attentive to the message’ about the boy’s age.
Mr Simpson said it was ‘quite clear’ from the messages that the boy was the more active participant in the messaging.
Matters came to light when the boy was 15 following an argument with his mother who could smell cigarette smoke on him.
As punishment, she confiscated his phone, and on it she saw messages discussing the provision of cigarettes and alcohol by George and sexual activity taking place in return.
She asked him about it, and the boy said there had been sexual activity with George, so she went to the police.
George was traced through the boy’s phone, and following his arrest he said he was gay and used the website to hook up with other men, and denied known the boy was under 16.
Jane Brady, defending, said: “It’s accepted by the Crown that the defendant did not set out to have sex with or groom a child. He was on an adult website legitimately, and he was also chatting to a lot of other men."
But Judge Barry Berlin commented: “He knew perfectly well it was not an adult, because he was told in one of the messages.”
Miss Brady pointed out that the boy has said he would not support the prosecution, but George nevertheless pleaded guilty.
Arguing that there was a ‘realistic’ alternative to immediate custody, she added: “He has thought about nothing else since being arrested for this offence, and he has also paid for his own psychotherapy sessions.
“One cannot find a man who is more devastated and more genuinely remorseful for his actions.”
But jailing George, Judge Berlin told him: “I accept you are remorseful. However, these are serious matters of sexual activity with a child.
“Your basis of plea says there was no plan to groom him, and that to an extent he was the instigator of what happened. However, I remind myself of your age, which is plainly a feature I have to consider. You are 48 years of age, and he was a boy.
“While you may initially have thought he was over 16, he made it clear, explaining his age and asking if there was any difficulty. It didn’t make any difference.
“While he was a willing participant, he was a child, and you took advantage of him.
"Only an immediate custodial sentence is appropriate.”