Council fraud investigator caught in police sting after arranging to meet undercover officer posing as 14-year-old schoolboy in Stevenage park

Taylor went to Fairlands Valley Park in Stevenage where he was arrested.

Taylor went to Fairlands Valley Park in Stevenage where he was arrested. - Credit: Archant

An investigator whose job is to help councils weed out benefit fraudsters has been caught in a police sting arranging to meet what he thought was a 14-year-old schoolboy for a sexual encounter in Fairlands Valley Park.

Paul Taylor, who is employed by Hertfordshire County Council but works as part of a shared anti-fraud service with North Herts District Council, Stevenage Borough Council and Hertsmere Borough Council, unknowingly began chatting to a police officer posing as a 14-year-old boy on the gay dating site Grindr.

The 48-year-old of Harrier Mill, Henlow, denied the offence but was convicted by a jury of nine men and three women at Luton Crown Court on Tuesday.

Prosecutor Geoffry Parker told the court how Taylor began chatting with the undercover police officer called Pat – who used the tag James14 on gay dating websites Grindr and Kik.

The officer called Taylor ‘Beachman’, as he used a photograph of a beach as his identity on Grindr in which he said he was interested in men aged between 18 and 26.

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Mr Parker said the police officer made it very clear at an early stage in the chat that he was just 14 years old.

He said: “At a very early stage during their online chat Mr Taylor asked James his age. James said he was 14.

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“He asked Mr Taylor not to report him because on Grindr you have to be 18.

“The defendant said he would not report him. The defendant said he was 47 and asked not to be ‘blocked’ by James on the site.”

Taylor then asked for photos of James14 and the conversation quickly moved to one of a sexual nature.

When James told him he was going to play football, Taylor said he had a fantasy about lads in football kit.

James14 told him his football kit was red and black with red socks. Taylor is said to have replied: “Oh yum.”

Undercover officer Pat, who gave evidence to the jury behind a screen, told the jury that while posing as James14 he talked about his mum, nan and school to reiterate the message that he was 14.

He said Taylor used a bear symbol and an upward arrow on his online profile which is used in the gay community to represent a male with a grizzled appearance and to indicate a particular sexual position.

When questioned by the police, Taylor said he worked in local government as a fraud investigator and said he went to Stevenage’s Fairlands Valley Park only to meet the person because he thought the profile must be a fake.

He said: “I didn’t believe he was a 14-year-old. The profile stank – it didn’t feel right. It was wrong.

“I felt it was an older person masquerading. For stupid reasons I went to the location. I was going to have it out with him.

“I am aware of the age of consent. I am not going to jeopardise my life, my work, my friendships for the sake of that.”

When an officer searched Taylor’s BMW 3 series they found condoms, lubrication, wipes, Vaseline and a shoelace tied as a lasso.

He now faces a jail term after being found guilty of attempting to meet a child aged under 16 after grooming him. Taylor will be sentenced on October 20 when he will also be made subject to a sexual harm prevention order.

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