A Winchester man was jailed for five and a half years today (tues) after travelling to Hertfordshire intending to commit sexual offences against a nine year old girl.

Howard White, 64, of Whaddon Lane, Owslebury, pleaded guilty to attempting to cause a child to watch a sexual act and arranging the commission of a child sex offence on December 14 last year.

Stefan Wiedmann, prosecuting, told St Albans Crown Court: "This man was on his way to have sex with a nine-year-old girl” which was “thwarted only by police being present at the address on arrival”.

The court heard how on November 22, 2022 White began communicating with an undercover police officer via social media.

Under the pseudonym of ‘Gary’ the officer told White that he had a nine-year-old step daughter called Freya and that he (Gary) would sexually abuse his step-daughter in front of White. White sent pictures of himself with the intention of the images being shown to Freya.

After further communications, where White believed he was speaking to Freya, a meeting was arranged to take place in Hatfield with Freya being present where it was arranged for White to have sex at a flat nearby.

The court heard how on February 10, 2023 White drove 80 miles to Hatfield where he was there arrested by police.

In mitigation, Shanda McAteer said that White “wished to express his genuine and deep remorse” and “had led something of an isolated life in terms of relationships.”

Ms McAteer told the court that White had lived in a small and close-knit village and had faced catastrophic consequences. She said that White has “lost his good name and character” and detailed the relationship breakdown with his brother who he shared a house with.

She asked the judge to consider his age, his previous good character and said White “cannot really explain how he managed to crawl down what he, himself, calls this rabbit hole.”

Ms McAteer added that the defendant hoped that had he  found himself in front of a real child he would have realised that he could not have gone ahead and committed the act and said she did not believe White to be a significant risk for the future.

White stood in the dock in a grey prison tracksuit with his head low.

Judge Barbara Mensah sentenced White to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order and five and a half years imprisonment. She said: “These offences are treated very seriously by the court. They may well be decoy cases but…nevertheless, as far as you knew, it was a real nine-year-old child who was being spoken about.

“You had gone as far as you possibly could go - it seems to me that you had gone far enough and there is nothing in your behaviour that suggests you would have stopped”.

She added that a determinative lengthy sentence would meet the seriousness of the offence and protect the public and acknowledged that the experience had been “a source of embarrassment and humiliation” for White.