South West Wales

Bernard Merrells spared jail for online grooming by judge

Bernard Merrells Image copyright Bernard Merrells

A sex offender who poses a risk to young girls was spared an immediate jail sentence after a judge said it would not properly protect the public.

Bernard Merrells, 52, of Clydach, Swansea, was arrested by police after being caught in an online sting.

Swansea Crown Court heard he sent sexually explicit messages to who he thought was a 13-year-old girl and planned to meet up with her.

But he was speaking to a member of the public who passed evidence to police.

Judge Peter Heywood said the case was one which "clearly passed the custody threshold" but he imposed a 12-month sentence, suspended for two years, instead. He said he would personally monitor Merrells' progress.

"In my view it is a more constructive sentence that will protect the public than simply banging him up and finding he is back on the streets in six months," he said.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Swansea Crown Court heard the father put on a 'face of loving care'

In March 2015, Merrells sent sexually explicit messages, photos and a video to the girl via a dating site.

The court was told the individual posing as "Roxy" made it clear she was 13 and Merrells made it clear he was in his 50s.

He admitted attempting to incite sexual activity with a child.

David Singh, defending, described Merrells as isolated and depressed at the time and genuinely remorseful for his actions.

He will have to comply with a sexual harm prevention order which bans him from contacting girls and he will be placed on the sex offenders' register for 10 years.

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