A Wigan children’s sports coach has walked free from court after sending sexual messages and naked pictures of himself to two young “teens”.
Christopher Ashford, of Davy Road in Abram, was given two suspended prison sentences at a hearing in Bolton Crown Court after being caught engaging in sexual conversations with two “schoolgirls” by an online paedophile sting group.
The 40-year-old, who was coaching youngsters at Spring View Cricket Club, admitted to one of the charges after being confronted by men from the paedophile-hunting group Dark Light back in June.
Following his initial conviction for attempting to incite a girl between 13 and 15 to engage in sexual activity, another woman came forward with evidence that she had been speaking to Ashford, who believed her to be a 12-year-old girl, earlier in the year.
Judge Richard Gioserano heard how the married dad had struck up a conversation with one of the girls, who he believed to be 13, on a chat site called Mingle2.
Prosecuting, Jonathan Dickinson, said: “The username he was using was “naughtydad1977”. She was using the name ‘Milly’ and reported to be 13 years old. She made this clear in the initial conversation however the content of the messages on the defendant’s part was immediately sexual.”
The court heard Ashford sent explicit pictures of himself after just 30 minutes of engaging in conversation with the decoy.
Mr Dickinson said conversations took place regularly over three weeks in May. The sordid messages also revealed how Ashford had attempted to give the girl “instructions” on how to engage in sexual activity.
In one of the encounters, he told “Milly” to go into the bathroom, lock the door and take off her clothes
At one point Ashford suggested travelling to meet up, but “no arrangements were made”.
“Throughout this communication he was asking for her to send pictures,” added Mr Dickinson.
“On May 28 she sent an image of a fully-clothed child. The next day he asked if she was okay and that was the last contact between them.”
Dark Light finally caught up with Ashford on June 1, when he was apprehended at the cricket club and filmed by members of the sting group.
In the footage he admitted he had been speaking to a girl whom he believed to be 13 and told them it was a “stupid mistake”.
Following his conviction, another woman came forward revealing that she had also conversed with Ashford under the guise of a 12-year-old girl.
The court heard how she had engaged in discussions with the perverted coach between February and March this year through a website called “UK Social”.
“He began by saying “I’m Chris have you ever thought about naked boys and men?” said Mr Dickinson. “She replied “no i’m only 12.”
“From the start it was sexual. He sent pictures of himself in the shower. The images showed his face.
“Throughout she repeated she was only 12 but he continued to be provocative and told her he could teach her how to get pleasure.”
Defending, Jenny Hunt said: “He has taken responsibilities for his actions and expressed remorse. He has no previous convictions and is a man of previous good character.
“His wife remains supportive of him. They have worked through their relationship problems.”
Judge Gioserano addressed Ashford telling him that he had committed two “serious offences”.
“You thought you were communicating with a 13-year-old and a 12-year-old”, he said. “You were receiving sexual gratification. That reveals that there is distorted thinking which needs to be corrected for the sake of young girls.”
The judge explained that the sentencing would have been harsher had there been any real girls involved in the communications and that there was a strong degree of “culpability” but no degree of “harm”.
Ashford was given two 16-month jail sentences suspended for two years. He was ordered to complete 40 days of rehabilitation activity through probation, and 150 hours’ unpaid work.
He is the subject of a sexual harm prevention order for the next five years and will have to sign the sexual offenders’ register for seven years.