A would-be professional photographer who shared sexual messages with underage ‘girls’ also had sheep pornography on his computer.

Andrew Etherington offending came to light when the vigilante operating one of the decoy Facebook accounts with whom the 51-year-old was talking reported the explicit conversations to Greater Manchester Police.

READ MORE: Latest cases from Oxford Magistrates' Court

Thames Valley Police launched an investigation of their own, as Etherington lived in Banbury.

Oxford Crown Court heard that Etherington had been speaking to two Facebook profiles operated by so-called paedophile hunter groups.

He asked the first ‘girl’, who purported to be 14 and living in Manchester, if she would be interested in having her ‘photograph taken’. He suggested paying her £10 for five photographs, which she could also ‘sell on the internet’. The suggestion was made in a series of voice calls after he said he did not want to commit the ‘idea’ to writing.  

The second girl also claimed to be 14-years-old. He suggested they meet and said he wanted her to make a ‘list of things to do together’, asking her to think about ‘personal’ stuff and to ‘use her imagination’. He also asked what the ‘rules’ of meeting were.

When police trawled his computer, they also found extreme pornographic material 'apparently' showing a man having sex with a sheep.

The evidence also pointed to him looking at the net for ‘teen’ pornography.

Interviewed by the police he said he planned to be a photographer but, as he could not afford models, asked Facebook friends to model for him. Some were underage, some were over-18 – all were female.

Asked about the conversations with the decoy accounts, he said it was ‘general chat’. When detectives quizzed him about whether he had requested naked photographs of the girl, he answered no comment.

Etherington, of Portway, Banbury, admitted two counts of attempting to facilitate a child sex offence and possession of extreme pornography. He had no relevant previous convictions.

READ MORE: The criminals jailed at Oxford Crown Court in June

Judge Michael Gledhill QC sentenced him to two years’ imprisonment suspended for two years. He must complete a sex offender treatment programme and abide by a seven year sexual harm prevention order. Etherington will be on the sex offender register for 10 years.

Breaching either his sexual harm prevention order or the terms required of him as a sex offender, which typically involve notifying the police of his address, could result in up to five years’ imprisonment if the case were dealt with at the crown court.

Similarly, if Etherington were to breach his suspended sentence by failing to comply with the probation service or committing another offence, his two year jail term could be implemented in full.

Read more from this author

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