AN innocent dad was wrongly jailed after a paedophile stole his ID to groom underage girls.
Stephen Price stole the “younger and more attractive” father’s name and photo from a dating site to send sexually explicit pictures to 14-year-old “Talia.”
But it was a trap by a paedophile hunting group who then cornered the innocent unsuspecting dad before he was arrested and put in police cells for 36 hours over Christmas.
Cardiff Crown Court heard later Price admitted creating a fake profile on a dating site – and using a photo of the innocent dad.
Prosecutor Christopher Rees said: “He was completely unaware his photo was being used by Price who was intent on grooming underage girls.
“The man whose picture Price was using was visited at his home by four large men just before Christmas.
“They accused him in front of his elderly mother of being a paedophile. He was bombarded with abuse on social media.
“He had no idea what these men were talking about and contacted the police himself.”
The man was arrested and locked up over Christmas before being released on bail.
Mr Rees added: “The man became a pariah in the local area. There was significant deterioration in his mental health.
“He was not exonerated until the arrest of Price in February.”
The paedophile hunters – if I can use that awful expression – realised they had made an enormous mistake. They had named and shamed a man who was entirely innocent.
Police were later led to Price, 53, who was arrested at work.
Price, of Barry, South Wales admitted attempting sexual communication with a child, attempting to cause a child to watch sexual activity, attempting to engage in sexual activity with a child and attempting to incite a child to engage in sexual activity.
Clare Wilks, defending, said: “Mr Price accepts creating a fake profile and chose the picture of a younger and more attractive man.
“He had no idea that man would be tracked in the way he was.
“This, perhaps, is the danger of paedophile hunter groups acting on information that is not complete.”
Father-of-three Price was jailed for three years and made subject of an indefinite Sexual Harm Prevention Order.
Judge Nicola Jones said: “The situation has caused untold damage to the man.
“There has been a considerable deterioration in his mental health. He was locally reviled and abused on social media.
“The paedophile hunters – if I can use that awful expression – realised they had made an enormous mistake. They had named and shamed a man who was entirely innocent.”
Price was also ordered to register as a sex offender indefinitely.