Stephen Bateman thought he was meeting an underage schoolgirl he had met on Facebook and been having online sex chat with.

Bateman, of Walker, Newcastle, was snared when Dark Justice turned up to meet him – with the police in tow – at the city’s Millennium Bridge in February.

He initially claimed he was in the area just to see the seaside quayside, a patch of walkway the council converts into a makeshift beach each year.

Prosecutor Emma Downing said: “He said his only intention was to look at the Quayside beach and denied sexual motivation.

“He said they were only going to chat.”

On the day he was due to stand trial at Newcastle Crown Court Bateman pleaded guilty to attempted grooming.

Prosecutors accepted his guilty plea on the basis he intended to “kiss and cuddle” with the girl but no further sexual activity.


But despite adding the ‘girl’ on Facebook and pleading guilty to attempted grooming, a judge let him walk from court.

Judge Amanda Rippon handed him a suspended sentence – because of his immaturity, vulnerability and low intellect.

Tom Moran, defending, said Bateman was gullible and insecure, not a predatory paedophile, which the judge accepted.

Mr Moran added: “This is not one of the cases where Dark Justice catch someone and that turns out to be the tip of the iceberg with regard to internet activity, there is no suggestion of that here.”