Judge spares paedophile jail but advises him to drown his electronics

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A sex offender who sent filthy messages to what he thought was a 15-year-old girl was told by a judge to ‘throw his electronic devices in the Thames’.

Joshua Wingfield-Digby, 23, exchanged the explicit missives with the underage girl online, encouraging her to perform a sex act on herself and trying to arrange to meet her for sex.

But the ‘girl’ with whom the Witney man was playing out his fantasies was, in fact, an undercover police officer.

And by talking to the fictional child, Wingfield-Digby was in breach of a sexual risk order imposed two months earlier banning him from communicating with under-16s.

He was remanded in custody and, despite pleading guilty at an early stage, had to wait until this week to learn his fate. First, the barrister strike delayed his case for months, before the judge was invited to adjourn for psychiatric reports.

Wingfield-Digby, who was released from custody on bail last month pending sentence, was said to have significant learning difficulties that put him in the bottom one per cent of the population in terms of his ‘level of performance’.

Judge Michael Gledhill KC, sentencing him at Oxford Crown Court on Wednesday, said the public would be better protected by Wingfield-Digby getting help to stop him offending in the future.

Imposing a three year community order, the judge said: “My advice to you would be any electronic device that you have should be thrown into the River Thames.

“I don’t mean that literally, but you’ve got the gist of what I’m saying.

“You cannot trust yourself with electronic devices.”

He warned Wingfield-Digby that, if he breached his community order, he was looking at a jail sentence with a starting point of four to five years’ imprisonment.

Judge Gledhill noted that the defendant had ‘real difficulties’ in terms of his learning development.

“That said, you’re perfectly capable of working, as you know. You’re perfectly capable of living on your own, which you have done in the past,” he added.

“The problem is you have this unhealthy interest in girls much younger than you and despite what everybody has tried to do in the past, you have been unable to put aside that interest in young girls.

“If the opportunity arises you don’t hesitate in taking it and the public needs to be protected.”

Wingfield-Digby, of Asthall Leigh, near Witney, admitted breaching his sexual risk order, attempting to arrange the commission of a child sex offence, attempting to engage a child in sexual communication and attempting to cause a child to engage in sexual activity.

As part of the order, Wingfield-Digby must complete 150 hours of unpaid work, wear a GPS tag for six months, do rehabilitation work with the probation service and pay £500 in costs.

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire’s court and crime reporter.  

To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @t_seaward