The former organiser of Desborough’s carnival has been put behind bars after a series of “highly sexualised” messages to underage girls.
Michael Crick, 67, was caught after a police sting saw him ask a girl explicit questions and to be his girlfriend - despite believing she was just 12-years-old.
Crick, of Pioneer Avenue in the town, was also found to be in possession of vile images of child abuse when his home was raided by officers.
He resigned as chairman of the carnival committee soon after he was arrested and there is no suggestion that he worked with children as part of his role.
On Monday (February 4) Northampton Crown Court heard how in November 2016 an undercover officer posed as a child on Chat-Avenue, a chat room used by some children.
The officer had a conversation with Crick, who went by the username of Guest6519.
Prosecuting, Andrew Howarth said the officer told the Desborough man she was 12 and said that nobody knew she was chatting online.
Crick’s response was: “Our secret then.”
Other messages from Crick on the chat log included “maybe be my gf [girlfriend] if we get on well” and “if we ever meet I would shower you with gifts”.
He also asked her an explicit question about her body and told her he wanted to kiss her.
He went on to say he could put a friendship ring on her finger, adding that she should wear it on her ring finger.
The conversation continued on Skype where it became “highly sexualised”.
Crick, who worked as a biomedical scientist for 42 years, had his head in his hands as the court heard he told the ‘girl’ he loved her and wanted to spend the night with her.
An investigation revealed a series of chats with other girls dating back to March 2013.
In one he sent a picture which appeared to be explicit to a 14-year-old girl and asked her to send one back.
Police went to his house to arrest him in January 2017.
Mr Howarth said: “He said to police “I bet I know what this is about, it’s because I have been chatting”.”
Officers seized devices from his house and on one hard drive found 16 indecent images, two in category B and 14 in category C. Category A is the most severe.
Mr Howarth said Crick began chatting to children because he was “bored”.
He said: “He admitted he had been chatting to a 16-year-old girl and said it had been going on for about two years.
“He said it began when he retired and he was bored.
“He said he started off wondering what these children were doing online and not at school.”
“He said the conversation would often become sexual because “that’s the way it was”.”
Mr Howarth said that, in fact, many of the girls were 14 or 15 because Crick had an interest in girls growing up.
Crick went on to plead guilty to indecent images offences and attemping to cause a child to engage in sexual activity at Northampton Magistrates’ Court in December last year.
Mitigating, Rajesh Pabary said Crick didn’t want to act on the contents of the messages and originally started using chat functions to speak to university students.
Mr Pabary said: “That evolved to other people and that then turned into [speaking to] children.
“In hindsight he realises he was addicted to that.
“He never wanted to act on anything he talked about.”
Asking for a suspended sentence to be imposed, he added that Crick had taken steps to make sure he is never alone on a computer since and had not re-offended in the two years since his arrest.
He said: “Since these events he has changed his life.
“He knows what he has done is wrong and he truly regrets his actions.”
But His Honour Judge Fowler decided to jail Crick for a total of two years and six months.
Sentencing, he said: “It’s sad to say the least to find someone of your age here, someone who had a long and productive career.
“Someone who had brought up a family and someone who had not only maintained a life before being convicted of these offences, but was working hard within the community and your church to contribute in a positive way.”
Crick will serve half of his sentence in custody with the remainder on licence.
He will be made to sign the register for sex offenders for life, made the subject of a 15-year sexual harm prevention order and barred from working with children.
A spokesman for Desborough’s carnival committee confirmed Crick resigned after his arrest, adding that they had a child protection policy which everyone signed up to annually.
Speaking after the court case, detective constable Jason Cullum from Northamptonshire Police’s POLIT team said they safeguarded a child as a result of Crick’s sick messages.
He added that his jail term was a “great thing” for Northamptonshire.
Det Con Cullum said: “I welcome the sentence handed out to Michael Crick and I hope it demonstrates how serious Northamptonshire Police is in pursuing people who look to groom and take advantage of children.
“Crick is a severe sexual predator who used his position as an adult to manipulate vulnerable children.
“The fact he is now behind bars is a great thing for the people of Northamptonshire.
“As a result of this operation, a child was safeguarded and is now receiving support.
“If you’re worried about a child, please tell someone or give us a call on 101 so we can help.”