A paedophile Sports Direct manager, who was caught in a Lidl car park by vigilantes trying to meet a 13-year-old girl he’d been grooming online, has been jailed for more than two years.
Daniel Pickering, 33, from Manchester, was trapped after he engaged in sexually explicit conversations with someone he thought was a 13-year-old girl.
He was actually talking to an investigator from the action group, Keeping Kids Safe, who detained him under a ‘citizen’s arrest’ at a Lidl car park after he agreed to meet the girl ‘Amber Ryder’.
Police were called and he was pinned to the ground by officers, handcuffed and put in the back of their van.
Pickering admitted he had been chatting to the teenager and said he had been going through drug-fuelled ‘rocky patch’ with his girlfriend while working 14 hour days as a manager with the sports equipment retail chain.
Daniel Pickering, 33, from Manchester, was trapped after he engaged in sexually explicit conversations with someone he thought was a 13-year-old girl
Pickering admitted he had been chatting to the teenager and said he had been going through drug-fuelled ‘rocky patch’ with his girlfriend while working 14 hour days as a manager with the sports equipment retail chain
Police also found two snaps bags of cocaine and one bag of cannabis at Pickering’s home in the city’s Openshaw district.
At Manchester Crown Court, he was jailed for 27 months after he admitted attempting to meet a child under 16 after grooming, attempted to make a child watch an obscene video and attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child.
He also pleaded guilty to possessing cocaine with intent to supply and possession of cannabis. He was also ordered to sign the Sex Offender Register for 10 years.
Earlier in court Claire Brocklebank prosecuting said: ‘The defendant’s behaviour came to light having been caught by members of the group Keeping Kids Safe.
‘The purpose of that group is to set up profiles of a child to identify potential offenders and in this case they had set up a profile in the name of Amber, stating that she was 13 and with images of a child appearing to be 13 on the profile.
‘The defendant started a lengthy conversation with Amber which lasted just over a month. He asked Amber if she was single and suggested she find someone more experienced than her, and spoke about meeting up and going to his house. Also during the conversations he said he could give her alcohol and cocaine.
Daniel Pickering, a manager at retail giant Sports Direct who has admitted child sex offences after being trapped in a sting by vigilante paedophile hunters
‘The conversation started with introductions. She said ‘Hi I’m Amber I’m 13 from Liverpool. He said ‘Hi I’m Danny I’m 33 from Manchester’.
‘There were numerous times the spoke about meeting up and numerous times in the conversation things of a sexual nature were brought up. Throughout the conversation he asked her questions of a sexual nature and he also sent her a video of himself performing a sexual act.
‘The conversation turned to meeting up in Manchester Town Centre and that they would meet up and go to his home where alcohol and drugs would be provided. When he arrived he was met by six members of the group who performed a citizens arrest and contacted the police.’
When quizzed by police, Pickering said: ‘I wanted her to change her mind about meeting up but I was afraid she would call the police if I didn’t meet her. I ignored her messages for a while but she messages me about meeting up.’
In mitigation Picekring’s counsel Andrea Lock said: ‘He is a man who has never been in trouble and to say his fall from grace is spectacular is an understatement. He was living in his own home with his partner and children and has a 5 year old son from a previous relationship.
‘He was working as a manager at Sports Direct for 14 to 15 hours a day and as having a settled life with no money worries. But being able to have this significant wealth led to him being re-acquainted with friends, going out with the lads having drinks.
‘He was offered cocaine and he began taking cocaine recreationally. That soon very quickly spiralled out of control and rather unusually because he was earning a very good wage and had significant savings it was a habit that was relatively easy to hide.
‘Unfortunately he was going through a rocky patch with his partner and these two in combination led him to seek out female company on his computer.
Footage of Daniel Pickering being confronted by the vigilantes then arrested
‘There is no excuse whatsoever for him having directed his attention to what he believed was a 13 year old girl. All I can ask of the court is to take into account that the majority of those messages are utter drivel. There is minimal harm in this case as the person he was communicating with was actually an adult. It was someone who is part of a vigilante group.
‘He is genuinely remorseful. There is an element of feeling sorry for himself but it is inevitable I say for defendants in this situation. This has had a very significant impact on him and he is in a very bad way.
‘He is a man who has had a spectacular fall from grace. But he is not a man without hope. He is still able to return to his responsible job which is unusual in cases like this.
Daniel Pickering was a manager at retail giant Sports Direct
‘He could re engage in society as the hardworking and decent man that he was before these offences occurred.’
But the judge Mr Recorder Simon Medland QC told Pickering: ‘This sort of offending quite rightly fills people with dread. You communicated with and made plans to meet a girl for sexual activity who you believed was 13 years old.
‘You engaged in conversation with that person and the purpose for that was to arrange a meeting during which sexual activity would take place.
‘As it happens the person on the other end of the line was in fact an adult but you attempted to facilitate sex between you and a 13 year old girl. It is the dreadful misuse of modern communication and an example of the twisted thinking by persons regularly using and falling prey to drug addiction.
‘When arrested you had drugs in your possession, cocaine and cannabis and you communicated to who you thought was the 13 year old girl the offer to supply cocaine. This a case of somebody whose life has been ruined by the taking of Class A drugs and numerous peoples’ lives and families being ruined by this malicious and corrosive feature in society.’
In a statement after the case, a spokesman for Keeping Kids Safe said: ‘We believe he should have got longer but anything over two years in jail a great result and keeps our 100 per cent conviction rate going.
‘Mr Pickering definitely needed a custodial sentence as he was a real danger to children and was extremely aggressive as well as having a drug problem.
‘Our team travelled from Mansfield in Nottinghamshire to confront Pickering so hopefully this sends out clear messages that if you chose to groom children online we will seek out, we will expose you and we will get justice. We are here to stay and we will protect our children online for as long as needs be.’