A paedophile blamed his teenage victims for being on Grindr after being caught trying to meet up with a ’14-year-old boy’ for sex.
Marc Harmer, 55, was caught by a paedophile hunter group after arranging to meet with someone who he thought was a teenager in Stalybridge, Greater Manchester.
Police were called and officers cracked the PIN code to his mobile phone after he had refused to reveal it.
Harmer, from Stalybridge, Tameside, also bragged about having sex with a teenage boy – a claim he later denied, with his barrister dismissing it as ‘perverse bravado’.
He has now been jailed for five years after analysis of his phone revealed he had chatted on Grindr with two real teenage boys.
Marc Harmer, 55, was caught by a paedophile hunter group after arranging to meet with someone who he thought was a 14-year-old boy in Stalybridge, Greater Manchester
Harmer’s barrister Tony Williams said his best mitigation was his guilty plea to all 24 offences.
Mr Williams said Harmer had claimed he had not actually had sex with a teenage boy and described it as ‘perverse bravado’.
He said the judge could ‘take some solace’ in the fact Harmer did not meet any real children.
Harmer has shown ‘some insight’ into his behaviour, Mr Williams said.
But the judge replied: ‘It’s difficult, because he goes on to actually blame them for going on Grindr.’
In one chat, Harmer said he didn’t consider himself a paedophile because he ‘only does what the teenagers consent to’ and ‘doesn’t harm them in any way’.
He also messaged 16 profiles on the app, with users telling Harmer that they were aged from 11 to 15.
Police weren’t able to trace those using those profiles, so weren’t able to prove they were actually children.
But two of them were ‘decoy’ accounts being operated by a paedophile hunter group, Manchester Crown Court heard.
Harmer arranged to meet with who he thought was a 14-year-old boy at a petrol station on August 8, 2019.
Harmer (pictured above) from Stalybridge, Tameside, has now been jailed for five years after analysis of his phone revealed he had chatted on Grindr with two real teenage boys
In chats on Grindr, the ‘boy’ had told him that he was being thrown out of his home after telling his parents that he was bisexual.
‘None of that bothered you,’ a judge said, noting that if the child was real, he would have been vulnerable.
Recorder Simon Killeen told Harmer: ‘In my judgement, what your conduct demonstrates is an amount of predatory behaviour, using a social application site, putting children at risk for your own deviant sexual needs.’
In online chats with different profiles that he believed were used by children, Harmer asked their age, enquired what kind of sexual activity they were interested in and often exchanged pictures, prosecutor Nicola Gatto said.
On four occasions he tried to meet up with users he had spoke with online for sex.
The judge said: ‘It is quite plain he was, if given the opportunity, prepared to go and actually meet these people, as he did on the occasion when he was arrested.’
Harmer had previously been married but the relationship broke down.
He was ‘experiencing loneliness’ at the time of the chats, in July and August 2019, the court heard.
Harmer has since been diagnosed with bowel cancer and prison could have more of an impact on him than other inmates, Mr Williams said.
The sentencing hearing came after Harmer pleaded guilty to 16 counts of attempted sexual communication with a child; four counts of attempting to arrange or facilitate the commission of a child sex offence; two counts of sexual communication with a child; one count of arranging or facilitating the commission of a child sex offence; and one count of possessing an indecent image of a child.
He was ordered to sign the sex offender’s register for 10 years.
Harmer arranged to meet with who he thought was a 14-year-old boy at a petrol station on August 8, 2019, Manchester Crown Court (file photo above) heard
Detective Constable Mike Allen of GMP’s Tameside district Complex Safeguarding Team said after the hearing: ‘During Harmer’s interactions with these two individuals, he very quickly turned the conversation sexual before asking to meet them.
‘Thankfully, these individuals were not the young boys they were pretending to be and no further offences could be committed.
‘Sexual offences often have a long lasting impact on victims and Greater Manchester Police is committed to preventing harm.
‘I would, therefore, like to use this opportunity to encourage anyone who’s aware of an adult inappropriately contacting a young person to report it to an appropriate adult or agency so the youngster can be safeguarded and supported and the suspect can be identified and located.
‘I also hope this result warns offenders that this behaviour will not be tolerated in Greater Manchester and that authorities here are committed to ensuring they face justice.
‘As this case demonstrates, being convicted of child sex offences results in a prison sentence. There are a number of specialist services which work to help prevent offending.’