Batley man posed as teen while sending explicit sex messages to schoolgirls

BEHIND BARS James Alexander Petch.
BEHIND BARS James Alexander Petch.

A man who sent explicit sex messages to schoolgirls was caught in a sting operation when he tried to meet a 14-year-old while on bail.

James Alexander Petch did not realise the ‘Laura’ he was due to see in Halifax was actually fictitious and that he had been set up by Online Paedophile Investigations, which exposes such predators.

Prosecutor Patrick Palmer told Leeds Crown Court that instead the 36-year-old was filmed and the footage was put on Youtube.

Petch was initially arrested in March 2013 at his home in Enfield Drive, Batley, after inciting one girl aged 15 in text messages to perform sexual acts. He also asked for a photograph and her soiled knickers.

Pairs of knickers with the girls DNA on were found in Petch’s drawers among his boxer shorts, and a photo of her naked was on his laptop.

He also sent her photos of himself, sometimes wearing women’s underwear.

The girl later told police she had got lifts from Petch and he paid for a top-up card for her phone.

Mr Palmer said Petch was bailed while his laptop was further examined and his phone was analysed.

During the time he was in contact with the 15-year-old he was also sending messages to three other girls.

One lived in North Somerset and was persuaded to send topless pictures.

Another aged 15 was recorded in his phone under the name “Mirfield slag” and believed she was in contact with a 20-year-old called Jimmy.

He even used a photo of a boy in his late teens to support his profile.

Adam Birkby, mitigating, said Petch began leading a double life after becoming depressed by his father’s death.

“Part of the time he lived a law-abiding and settled life, but he had this dark side to him,” he said.

He said Petch had not had physical contact with the girls and now appreciated that he needed help.

Petch admitted 11 charges of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and four of making indecent photos as well as engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child, causing a child to watch a sexual act and attempting to meet a child after grooming.

Jailing him for four years and eight months on Monday, Judge Tom Bayliss QC said there was a “significant disparity” in age between Petch and his victims. He said his offending was also aggravated by his offence on bail.

He said: “You believed you were communicating with a child. In fact it was an adult playing you at your own game, seeking to identify a predatory man such as you.”