Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Youth consultant groomed schoolgirl for sex online

A youth consultant today admitted grooming a 13-year-old girl for sex online.

Simon Beard, 56, was caught red-handed after Sky News reporters undertook an undercover online investigation into men who attempt to groom children for sex.

The National Youth Agency consultant's job was to advise young people on their sexual development but he was caught arranging to meet the girl for sex at Gunnersbury Tube Station, west London, on April 29, Southwark Crown Court in central London heard.

Judge David Higgins ordered a pre-sentence report into the danger he poses to the public, saying he wanted a "proper opportunity to reflect on the true measure of his criminality".

Beard, who appeared via videolink from Wandsworth Prison for the 20-minute plea and case management hearing this morning, will be sentenced on August 6.

He also admitted attempting to cause or incite the 13-year-old to engage in sexual activity on both April 8 and April 28, as well as attempting to cause the girl to watch a sexual act.

Peter Zinner, for the prosecution, said Beard was "working for an organisation which effectively advised young people on their sexual development".

Beard was caught after investigators monitored the activities of several people on teen chatrooms and posed as a 13-year-old girl called Amy.

The broadcaster then passed a dossier of evidence, including film footage, to the Metropolitan Police.

Beard, of Main Street, Little Harrowden, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, was employed by the National Youth Agency between 2002 and September last year and continued working for the organisation as a consultant.

In his role he advised young people and youth workers on sexual relationships and counselling.

Beard denied a further charge of possessing 83 indecent images of children, ranging from levels one to four. The charge will be left to lie on file, the court heard.

Sam Stein QC, defending Beard, told the judge: "As soon as he is sentenced he can get on with the rehabilitation that he knows he needs."