Man who took part in online sex chats with decoy posing as schoolgirl avoids jail
A 52-year-old Belfast man who took part in online sex chats with a decoy posing as a schoolgirl has avoided being sent to prison.
Ronald Alexander Hoy sent “inappropriate” photographs of himself to someone he believed to be a 14-year-old child and asked for similar images in return.
At Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday he was sentenced to three years probation and made subject to a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) for five years.
Hoy, previously of Greenville Road in the east of the city, pleaded guilty to attempted sexual communication with a child on dates between September 13-18, 2021.
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Prosecutors said the sting operation was mounted by a paedophile hunter group based in Sunderland.
Hoy had been chatting online with someone using the name ‘Scarlett’, believing that it was a girl aged 14.
“He engaged in sexual conversation with the decoy, sent inappropriate pictures of himself and requested inappropriate pictures from the decoy,” a Crown lawyer told the court.
Hoy was arrested by police after another group in Northern Ireland, Parents Against Predators, were alerted to the operation.
Defence barrister Mark Farrell accepted there were aggravating features to the offence.
But he argued: “The harm (done) is low because there was no child involved, it was actually a decoy.”
Mr Farrell added that Hoy has been forced to move to an undisclosed address due to the case attracting attention within his local community.
Passing sentence, District Judge Steven Keown stressed the offences justified immediate custody.
He decided, however, that imposing a prison term at this stage would do nothing to manage any risk still posed by Hoy on his release.
Mr Keown instead ordered the defendant to complete the terms of his probation and SOPO, and placed him on the sex offenders’ register for five years.
The judge warned: “If there is a breach or further offending, he will go to jail for as long as I can stand over.”