Paedophile supermarket boss Steven Gibson trawled countless Facebook pages to find random young girls who lived near his home. He then posed as a child of a similar age to dupe them into joining a Snapchat group he had set up.
Father-of-one Gibson, 50, of Mailer Way, Perth, sent cartoon images of characters from TV show Family Guy to the 12 and 13-year-old members of the group.
The children – who had been conned into thinking the group had been set up by a schoolfriend – called in the police after Gibson started sending images of a penis.
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On Monday at Perth Sheriff Court, Gibson was placed on the Sex Offenders Register and under supervision for three years by Sheriff Gillian Wade.
She also ordered him to carry out 300 hours unpaid work as a direct alternative to custody and imposed a conduct requirement limiting what he can do without social work supervision.
She said: “These are extremely serious offences and the court takes a grim view of what you have done. It would have been extremely distressing for the children involved, who were of a young age.”
Fiscal depute Rebecca Kynaston told the court: “The complainers were all 12 and 13 at the time and the accused is a 50-year-old male and has a SnapChat account called ‘My Name Is.’
“He was not known personally to any of the children, but they were all known to each other as they attended the same school in the Dundee area.
“In 2018 they became involved in a group chat called ‘Keep It 12A’. The accused was a member and was believed to have originally created the group.
“The accused placed an image into the chat of a character from the show Family Guy, masturbating alongside the words ‘who’s pumping?’ It was seen by all group members.”
When one girl told Gibson the message was not welcome, he replied: “Lol. You wanting pumped later? Let’s get pumping. Want to try this later?”
He then sent an image of cartoon characters having sex before sending a picture of a penis and the message: “It does get bigger if you was playing with it.”
Gibson, who still lives with his partner of ten years, asked one girl to have sex and pestered her again when she failed to respond to his request.
He then sent a photoshopped image of a female with a male penis over her face and the children called in the police to report the vile month-long campaign.
Gibson, who was working for Tesco at the time, admitted five charges of sending written sexual communications to children on Snapchat between 27 May and 30 June 2019.
The court was told that he was traced by his user name and was ‘uncomfortable and nervous’ while police carried out a search of his family home.
Mrs Kynaston said: “His mobile phone contained screenshots of Facebook pages of young females in the Dundee, Angus and Perth area. A number of those pages had the user’s Snapchat details on them.”
Solicitor Ross Donnelly, defending, said: “He has, up till now, been employed by Tesco where he is a duty manager. He does not realistically anticipate being able to keep his job.
“He is aware of the incredibly serious nature of what’s happened. It is arguably surprising that this case has been prosecuted at summary level.
“He is well aware that this is a case which merits in terms of its severity, a custodial sentence. He is aware the custody threshold has been reached.”
However, Sheriff Wade stopped short of jailing Gibson after noting he was a first offender and had been assessed as posing a ‘low to moderate’ risk.