A Christian youth worker was caught trying to groom a young girl online - unaware the ‘youngster’ was actually an undercover police officer.
A judge told Sam Rourke, 23, he had led “two lives”, appearing to be a respectable churchgoer but chatting to young girls on the internet and making lurid suggestions.
Rourke cried in the dock as Judge Andrew Woolman imposed 16 months in prison but suspended it for two years after he admitted inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.
Preston Crown Court heard Rourke, formerly of Leyland, had been involved in a “grooming process”.
Prosecuting, Francis McEntee said: “The defendant had been engaging in chat online, clearly in the belief he was dealing with either a 12 or 13-year-old, when in fact he was engaged in sexualised talk with an undercover police officer.
“The undertaking when entering is that the user condition requires you to specify you are aged between 12 and 19. He signed himself as being 19.
“There’s a facility for private chat. It’s by that means that he was contacting the undercover officer - who had a a principle name of ‘Kayla and Lozzer’.
“On January 19 at 1.10pm, the defendant first made contact with ‘Kayla’ who is described as being 12. It started with questions of, ‘How are you?’ and quickly, ‘How old are you?’
“The defendant asked whether she minded his age and very quickly told her he was 22. The girl said she lived in Cadley area of Preston.”
The pair continued chatting using Skype, on which he gave his real name and mobile number and revealed he worked with children with learning difficulties as a support worker.
The court heard University of Chester Rourke asked for a picture and told her she was “super cute”.
He suggested he came round to her house as she had said she was in alone, but the officer said her mother was coming home.
On February 8, the defendant said he often came to Preston for work and suggested they could “hang out, go to a park and get some food”. He went on to ask if she had ever had a boyfriend.
Mr McEntee said: “He used it as a premise for suggesting he could give her lessons in kissing and could show her how to be better.
“He suggested she engage in a sexual act on herself, giving her instructions.
“When arrested he said: ‘I need help - I’ve been really stupid.’
Defending Rourke, now of Spring Road, Feltham, Middlesex, Benjamin Narian said: “There is a genuine expression of remorse.
“He had been using chatrooms since he was a child and had been on the other side - it would appear adult males have encouraged him engage in acts himself.
“As a teenager he lived in an environment with certain pressures to do with his faith and his views on sex, which he has struggled with. He struggled with aspects to his sexuality.
“The trigger would appear to be loneliness and isolation.”
Rourke, who is understood to have been involved with St John’s Church in Leyland and the global Elevation Church movement, was accompanied to court by relatives and a church minister.
Sentencing, Judge Woolman told him: “Fortunately it wasn’t a real person at the end. If it had been I would have no option but to imprison you immediately.
“You were someone who ran two lives, You come from a good family, you are clearly a devout and God-fearing person, but behind that other side of that wall you indulge in this fantasy life, indulging in talking to young girls.
“You were not the scheming, manipulative person one might come across. Nonethless what you have done is unlawful and reprehensible.”