Published Thursday, 22 November 2012
Married father of three David Osborne, who is 41 and from Summer Street in Belfast, sent gifts, Valentine's cards and money to the girls, Belfast Crown Court heard.
He also sent lewd text messages and an indecent picture to one of his victims - and he asked the teenagers for, and was sent, numerous photos the girls had taken of themselves.
Jailing Osborne and ordering that he sign the police sex offenders register for the rest of his life, Judge Corinne Philpott QC said if the teenager he met at a hotel in England had not walked out upon seeing that he was not the young man of 19 or 20 that he claimed to be, "one doesn't actually know what precisely he would have done on the day in question".
The Deputy Recorder of Belfast added however that given the circumstances "it is reasonable to conclude that significant, intimate sexual activity could have taken place".
She told the court that although the paedophile has been assessed as being a dangerous offender who posed a risk to children, because the offences came under the old sentencing regime, her hands were tied as regards putting an extended or indeterminate sentence in place in order to better protect the public.
Osborne pleaded guilty to one count of meeting a child following sexual grooming, two of attempting to meet a child after grooming and three charges relating to indecent photographs of children, all committed on dates between 17 January 2008 and 4 February 2009.
An earlier court heard how his offences came to light when the mother of one of the girls became concerned about who she was contacting on her mobile phone and it was when her phone was examined and she saw the content of some text messages that alarm bells began to ring.
The police investigation revealed two other girls of the same age, with all three living in various parts of England, had also been contacted by Osborne who during online chats, text messages and phonecalls claimed to be 20 years younger than he actually was.
The judge was told that during a family holiday, Osborne's wife described how he was "constantly on the phone" but that when she asked him about it, he claimed "it was to do with work" but as the judge said, that phone activity was plainly when he was grooming his would-be victims.
The court heard how at one stage, Osborne arranged to meet one of the schoolgirls, booking flights to the mainland and an overnight hotel room but that fortunately for her, when she saw him and realised his true age and looks, she fled.
Arrested and interviewed about the matters, Osborne denied doing anything wrong but further police enquiries revealed that despite knowing full well that he was under investigation, there was further contact with one of the teenagers.
In jailing Osborne, Judge Philpott said that was a "very worrying factor" in the case, as was evidence of his "manipulative behaviour" which he had tried to minimise.
As well as the jail term, the judge put a Sexual Offences Prevention Order in place for an indefinite period, barring Osborne from contacting his victims, having unsupervised contact with children, living anywhere, going on holiday or taking up a job without approval or having internet access without monitoring software being in place.
© UTV News