St Neots paedophile caught in police operation
- Credit: Archant
A man who thought he was talking to underage girls online was caught when they turned out to be police officers.
Neil Gould, 42, used online applications to start conversations with three separate users he believed were girls aged 12 or 13.
Between April 2017 and May 2018, Gould sent sexualised messages to the users, tried to persuade them to send him indecent images and sent explicit photos of himself.
When officers received information identifying Gould they arrested him at his home on 8 July and seized a mobile phone.
Analysis of the phone revealed 25 indecent images of children. Of these, 10 were classed as category A - the most severe.
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Gould, of St Anselm Place, St Neots, admitted three counts attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child and three of making indecent images of children.
On Friday (5 July) at Peterborough Crown Court he was sentenced to 16 months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work.
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DC Tony Harlow said: "Gould actively sought out these users and sent them sexualised messages in the genuine belief they were underage girls.
"Each of the images discovered on his phone represents a child being abused and exploited. Protecting young people from harm is one of our top priorities and we will continue to work tirelessly to keep our communities safe."
Anyone who is concerned someone may have been convicted of a sex offence, and could be posing a risk to a child, can apply for disclosure information through Sarah's Law.
An NSPCC spokesperson for the East of England said: "Gould is a sexual predator and the abuse he sought to inflict on young girls online can have a devastating impact on their lives.
"Thankfully he was talking to police officers - but this case shows how vital it is for young people to be able to spot the warning signs of grooming and to know where to turn for help.
"Child safety online is one of the biggest safeguarding issues we face today, which is why the next Prime Minister must regulate social media to ensure they protect young people on their sites."
Any young person concerned about inappropriate behaviour online can contact Childline free of charge on 0800 1111 or via www.childline.org.uk.