Royston pervert spared jail after snare by paedophile hunter

Larry Shannon was sentenced today at Chelmsford Crown Court. Picture: Google Street View

Larry Shannon was sentenced today at Chelmsford Crown Court. Picture: Google Street View - Credit: Archant

A Royston pervert who was snared in an online sting by a self-styled paedophile hunter has been spared jail.

After grooming what he thought was a 15-year-old youth on the gay dating site Grindr, Larry Shannon - of Upper King Street - arranged to meet the 'child'.

Under the username 'Fun Dad', Shannon talked to 'Young Harlow' - online for more than 90 minutes and sent him an indecent photograph.

The 56-year-old originally denied two offences, but then changed his plea to guilty on the day of his trial in June at Chelmsford Crown Court.

Today, Shannon - who pleaded guilty to attempting to meet a child under 16 following grooming on October 6, 2017, with the intention of touching him sexually - received a suspended sentence.

A second charge, which related to attempting to cause 'Young Harlow' to watch a sexual image, was left on file.

At the sentencing hearing, Judge Christopher Morgan imposed a 12-month prison term, suspended for two years, with a 25-day rehabilitation requirement activity - and ordered Shannon to pay £500 costs. He was also ordered to sign the sex offenders' register for 10 years.

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The judge said Shannon still did not understand what he had done wrong, a sentiment regularly seen by the courts "where a paedophile hunter has caught you in a trap".

But he told the defendant he had had the choice, when told 'Young Harlow' was 15, not to continue the communication.

"The individual, such as the paedophile hunter, would not be successful if those such as yourself didn't respond to adverts in the way that you did. It's not a defence," said the judge.

He added that Shannon had taken a risk, "like so many".

He said: "That's why the paedophile hunter and his like are so successful - there's no chance of you getting away with it because it's reported immediately."

Judge Morgan said the incident happened when Shannon's marriage had broken down and he was going through "emotional turmoil".

Prosecutor Noel Casey said the paedophile hunter, who characterised himself as an online investigator, purported to be under age online "and thereby drawing in those seeking sexual contact of some kind with an underage person".

When Shannon exchanged messages, 'Young Harlow' repeatedly said he was 15. Shannon was arrested when he turned up at McDonald's.

The prosecution accepted there was no intention by Shannon to engage in penetrative sexual activity.

Shannon's barrister Drea Becker said the online chat only lasted 90 minutes and all took place on the one evening on which he was arrested.

No indecent images of children found on his devices.

She added that Shannon was only on Grindr for a short period at a time he was exploring his sexuality. He had not been on any site since his arrest.