Sussex father caught by undercover police officer posing as 13-year-old girl

Sean Stillwell, pictured outside Hove Crown Court, was spared jail
Sean Stillwell, pictured outside Hove Crown Court, was spared jail

A father caught by undercover officers in an online chatroom for teenagers had a collection of graphic indecent images of children at his home.

Sean Stillwell from East Preston told 13-year-old ‘Miah’ that she was ‘fit’ and asked her to send him a picture of herself in her school uniform, a court heard yesterday.

However ‘Miah’ was actually an undercover police officer pretending to be a child in order to catch online predators.

When his house was searched police found devices belonging to Stillwell containing 196 indecent images of children as young as eight years old, Hove Crown Court heard.

Stillwell, 32, of Roundstone Drive in East Preston, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child, three counts of making/possessing indecent images of a child, possessing prohibited images of a child and possessing extreme pornographic images.

He appeared at Hove Crown Court yesterday for sentencing.

Prosecutor Edmund Blackman said: “She made it very clear she was 13.

“Miah was in fact a police officer playing a role, the purpose of which was to detect offenders such as Mr Stillwell.”

Police officers arrived at his home in October 2017, arrested Stillwell and searched the address.

In addition to the 196 images, police found pages and pages of word documents listing internet sites where one could obtain pornographic images, the court heard.

The prosecutor said: “He denied having a sexual interest in teenage girls and thereafter answered no comment [to police].”

Defence barrister Josie Sonnessa said that ‘underlying learning difficulties do play a feature’ in the case but that this does not condone the behaviour.

“These offences do cross the custody threshold but perhaps society would be best served if he does engage with a [rehabilitative] programme.”

She also noted Stillwell’s previous good character.

Judge Christine Henson QC, sentencing Stillwell, said: “The matters to which you have pleaded guilty are so serious that normally you would be getting a prison sentence that would start today.

“I agree that although you are a high risk of harm – to particularly young girls – by your behaviour, with the Sexual Harm Prevention Order and the work that the probation service can do with you, your rehabilitation can be effectively managed within the community rather than prison.”

Stillwell was given a three-year community order, told to complete a sex offenders’ programme, rehabilitation days and carry out 140 hours of unpaid work.

He was also ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1,443.