The retired NCO was caught sending a boy a string or sexual messages and had been committing acts against children since the 1970s.
78 year old James Clark thought he’d been messaging a 14 year old boy but was actually messaging a vigilante group who then turned up at his home once Clark gave what he thought was a boy named Carl his address.
They went to his home in Derbyshire on the 6th of May 2020 where they confronted a startled Clark.
It came to light after his arrest that he had already served two jail terms since the 1970s after leaving the British Army.
He also had a string of sexual offences on underage children from 1973 and 18 convictions for 44 offences in total.
Lucky Thandi, prosecuting, said: ‘The defendant had been sending sexualised messages to Carl and gave him his address saying they should meet.
‘He went as far as telling Carl that he should not tell anyone what they were doing.
‘The group attended at the address and attempted to ask him about the messages before calling the police.’
Miss Thandi said after being arrested and answering ‘no comment’ to the questions he was asked by detectives, Clark was released under investigation.
But on three occasions between then and June of this year he was caught with either mobile phones or tablets that he had failed to declare to the police, breaking the terms of his order.
On one of them, when he was living in Railway Terrace, in Derby, a support worker caught him frantically trying to hide a box under an armchair which contained a phone.
Jailing him for 32 months at Derby Crown Court, Recorder Martin Butterworth said: ‘The most serous offence is seeking to be in the company of a 14-year-old boy who you were grooming.
‘You tried to arrange a meeting with what you thought was a naive 14-year-old with the intention of him having sexual contact with you.
‘The fact is that you are now an old man who, when you are at liberty, find yourself isolated.
‘Your family has disowned you and over the years you have found yourself friendless.
‘But you are a 78-year-old man who has a bad record for sex offending and breaching orders.’
Speaking after sentencing, an NSPCC spokesperson said: ‘Clark’s disgusting attempts to groom what he thought was a young boy show how easy it can be for a sexual predator to manipulate children online.
‘This case should be a reminder of how vital it is for parents and carers to speak to their children about their online lives, and help them understand the risks they face and where they can turn if they are worried about something.
‘Children need more protection from dangerous individuals such as Clark.
‘This is why we are pushing the Government hard to publish the Online Harms Bill in the Autumn which will force tech companies to design in safety measures for all the young people who use their platforms.’
Clark said his offences came about from a ‘deep sense of unhappiness and loneliness’ after he caught his wife cheating on him whilst he was in the Army and after he left his life spiralled out of control.
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