Parents trapped Facebook paedophile

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The Independent Online

A paedophile who targeted an 11-year-old on Facebook and was caught when the girl's parents posed as her online was beginning a jail sentence today.

Thomas Gibbs was snared after the couple logged on as their daughter and discovered he was grooming her for sex.

The 52-year-old was handed a 16-month prison term by a judge at Oxford Crown Court yesterday.

Prosecutors said the family took matters into their own hands when they noticed their daughter was communicating with a stranger online.

Looking over her shoulder as she used her laptop, their suspicions were confirmed and they realised the mystery correspondent was posting "extremely concerning" messages.

Commenting on her profile picture, he told the girl he wanted to kiss her and wrote "I really like you" and "I want to meet you".

Jennifer Edwards, prosecuting, said the girl's mother took the laptop and continued the conversation with Gibbs, pretending to be her daughter.

The family immediately alerted police but maintained contact with Gibbs over the internet.

Each time the concerned mother went online, she found Gibbs was there, ready to respond.

And when he later suggested a rendezvous on April 18, she agreed to meet him - still pretending to be her daughter.

Gibbs arrived for the meeting in Witney town centre, Oxfordshire, but the girl's mother remained hidden so she could observe the stranger and note his appearance.

She did not contact him but arranged another meeting the next time he was on Facebook.

This was organised for Carterton, Oxfordshire, on April 30 and ended with his arrest.

Gibbs, from Witney, admitted two counts of travelling to meet a child following sexual grooming and was ordered to sign the sex offenders' register for at least five years.

Detective Constable Jon Capps, of Thames Valley Police, said the predator travelled to both meetings with "the intention of committing a sexual offence" and despite knowing the girl's age.

He said Gibbs had specifically asked the girl not to tell her parents where she was going.

"It was only because the girl's parents became alert to the danger that the situation did not escalate and he was prevented from meeting the girl again," he said.

"This case highlights the dangers of children being approached on the internet and I would urge all parents to monitor as closely as possible, and as best they can, their children's activity on the internet and report any suspicious activity."