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Ex-takeaway owner caught in online 'sex sting' by undercover police officer

Matthew Harper, 39, believed he was talking to a 13-year-old girl

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A former takeaway owner who attempted to engage in online sex activity with an undercover cover police officer he ‘genuinely believed was a 13-year-old girl’ has admitted a string of offences.

Matthew Harper, 39, of Clayton-le-Moors, used the online ‘live chat’ application Kik and later Skype to groom what he believed was a young teenager named ‘Emma’, stating on one occasion ‘as I’m much older than you I could get in trouble’.

At a sentencing hearing at Burnley Crown Court, prosecutor Andrew Brown said the online communication with ‘Emma’ took place over a three-week period beginning on March 13 this year.

Mr Brown said Harper made initial contact with Emma on the Kik app using a profile picture of himself ‘wearing an unzipped blue onesie which exposed his chest and top of his boxer shorts’.

The court heard that ‘Emma’ said she was 13 and Harper claimed to be 32, he told her that they ‘should not be chatting on cam with someone her age’ but still turned the conversation to a sexual nature and sent inappropriate pictures to the officer posing as Emma.

Over the next three weeks Harper contacted ‘Emma’ on several occasions, sending pictures and videos of himself performing sex acts and encouraging her to do the same, the court heard.

At an earlier hearing Harper admitted one count of attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child, two counts of attempting to cause a child to watch a sexual act, two counts of attempting to incite a child to engage in a sexual act and one count of attempting to engage in a sexual act in the presence of a child.

The court heard that the video clips and images sent by Harper to ‘Emma’ matched his tattoos and watch.

Harper, who had no previous convictions, was arrested in early April and answered no comment to all questions from officers.

He entered guilty pleas to the charges at his first court appearance.

Defending, Alexander Rostron said: “He is thoroughly ashamed of his behaviour and the shame it have brought on members of his family.”

He added that since his arrest he had sold his share in a takeaway business which he jointly owned.

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Jailing Harper for 18 months, Judge Nicholas Barker, said: “All these matters showed grooming behaviour on your part.

“You genuinely believed you were talking to a 13-year-old girl.”