A Watford paedophile was caught in the act when the 12-year-old girl he was trying to engage in sexual communication with online turned out to be an undercover police officer.
Russell Bergman, 71, received a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years, and was ordered to perform 200 hours of community work at a hearing at St Albans Crown Court on Tuesday, June 28.
This was after pleading guilty to the charges of attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child under 13 and a second charge of attempting to engage in non penetrative sexual activity with a girl under 13.
He will also have to attend 30 rehabilitation activity requirements days with probation staff to address his behaviour, pay £425 in court costs, was made the subject of a 10-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order and will go on the sex offenders’ register for the same period of time.
After handing down the sentence, Judge Richard Foster said to Bergman: “You can count yourself lucky that you are leaving the court by the front door and not in a prison van.”
Prosecutor Adam Squibbs told the court of how Bergman, who was a man of previous good character, had gone online several times to chat with someone he knew as 12-year-old girl named ‘Ella’.
However, Ella was an undercover police officer. Days after his last conversation with her, he was surprised to find police on his doorstep.
The offending took place between May 8 and June 15 last year, with Bergman being arrested on June 30, Two mobile phones were seized on the same date, which have now been destroyed.
Mr Squibbs said in a series of communications, the defendant talked to ‘Ella’ about various items of a sexual nature, stating: “He spoke of his desire to touch Ella and rub himself against her. He encouraged her to masturbate on three occasions.”
Mr Squibbs later added that in an interview with officers, Bergman had accepted he had spoken to ‘Ella’, stating it was a “cheeky conversation”. He also said Bergman had felt uncomfortable about speaking to the girl and had made it plain he would never sexually involve himself with girls of Ella’s age, though he was unable to explain why he had engaged in the communications.
Matthew Hardyman, defending, stated that his client’s offending had been a “fantasy”, and that he was now deeply ashamed of his actions.
The judge noted that in his last chat with “Ella” 14 days before his arrest, Bergman had been asked by the “decoy” officer if he wanted to chat any further, to which he had replied “Probably not.”
However, he also stated that there had been a grooming aspect to Bergman’s offending, and that his behaviour had been “disgusting”.