Northamptonshire ex-serviceman jailed for arranging meet up to sexually assault young girl

The 39-year-old thought he was talking with the girl's mother and planning a meeting - but he was actually chatting with an undercover police officer

Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 12:57 pm
Updated Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 12:58 pm

An ex-serviceman tried to arrange a meetup so he could have sex with an 11-year-old girl - but didn't realise he was talking to an undercover policewoman.

Neil Bennett, of Mills Lane, Towcester, spent two weeks messaging a 'mother' online with a plan to sexually assault her supposed young daughter.

And, in a kind of vetting process, the 39-year-old even sent the woman indecent images of children to show he was serious - before asking her to provide such images of her child.

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Neil Bennett was jailed for 18 months after pleading guilty to attempting to arrange the sexual offence of a child.

But the former member of the armed forces didn't realise was he was actually chatting online with an undercover police officer.

Northampton Crown Court heard yesterday (June 1) how Bennett cancelled the 'appointment' on the day it was due to take place.

"On the day, you had second thoughts and realised what you were doing was wrong, improper, or simply something you couldn't go through with," said recorder Mr Stuart Sprawson in sentencing.

"But it's right that, in summary, you over a period of two weeks expressed a seriousness to go through with it."

The chat logs were used as evidence to arrest Bennett. When detained, police also found 108 images of indecent images on his devices. 50 of them were classed as "category A", the most severe category in UK law.

The court heard Bennett had shown "genuine remorse" since he had been caught.

But the judge ruled he could not spare him with a community order or a suspended sentence.

"I feel I would not be doing my duty if I did not deal with this with an immediate custodial sentence," said Mr Sprawson.

Bennett was handed an 18-month prison sentence and handed a sexual harm prevention order that restricts how he can use the internet or electronic devices.