A FORMER pub landlord from Chester who groomed and then abused a 13-year-old boy using gay dating app Grindr has been jailed for five years.

Jeremy Wilkes, 43, admitted three charges of sexual activity with a child and was described by judge Simon Berkson as a ‘predator’ at Chester Crown Court today (Tuesday, January 7).

The defendant had begun exchanging lewd messages with the boy, who called him ‘daddy’, before arranging to meet him at his flat on Faulkner Street in Hoole on November 21 last year.

Chester and District Standard:

Jeremy Wilkes is now behind bars.

Paulinus Barnes, prosecuting, told the court Wilkes had admitted to the victim that he had previously slept with boys aged 15 or 16.

The teenager was dropped off near the defendant’s flat by his oblivious mother, who thought he was simply meeting up with a friend.

Wilkes led the boy into his home, where gay porn was playing on a television, and proceeded to have sex with him. He recorded one of the acts on his mobile phone.

Mr Barnes said the complainant had begun to feel uncomfortable and told Wilkes ‘that’s enough now’.

“He remembered thinking at the time that this man is dirty,” the barrister told the court.

The defendant then sent the boy on his way saying he was expecting a friend but urged him not to tell anyone “as that would be bad for both of us”.

The teenager vomited soon after leaving and later received a text message from Wilkes saying: “Was good today, lad. Again soon?’ The boy replied simply: “No, thanks.”

He told several friends, one of whom reported the matter to a teacher at his school. Inexplicably, he was first interviewed in the presence of the headteacher making the experience so uncomfortable that a second interview was later needed.

Wilkes was arrested on November 22 and was said to have muttered to officers: “I knew it was a mistake”.

In his police interview he admitted having sex with the boy but stressed he had not forced himself upon him.

Mr Barnes said the ordeal had taken a significant toll on the victim who had suffered with insomnia and flashbacks.

In his victim impact statement, the boy said: “I just feel disgusting that I didn’t say anything. It makes me feel sick.”

His mother wrote that she had noticed a “massive change” in her son, whom she described as loving and affectionate.

“He is now a recluse who’s afraid to leave the house,” she said in her statement, read to the court by Mr Barnes. “He seems to have lost all of his confidence around people.

“He’s become very angry. He doesn’t want to talk about it, he just shuts down. We feel our lives have been turned upside down.”

Owen Edwards, defending, described the case as “desperately serious” and a perfect example of why the law is there to protect young people, “including from themselves”.

“[The complainant] embarked upon what at the time he considered to be an experiment or adventure and in no time at all discovered that it was a disaster,” he said. “This will be a very unhappy memory for that young man.”

He said his client could not offer a sensible explanation as to why he had pursued the course of action he did.

Wilkes was a gay man who had used Grindr in the past only to hook up with other adult men.

Mr Edwards told the court: “He, with the benefit of hindsight, is ashamed and genuinely remorseful about that decision-making process and doesn’t even try to pretend there’s justification for it.”

The barrister said his client was a former publican who had worked most of his life and had his own home. He had now lost his flat, was suffering with depression and had lost his relationship with his family, who could not forgive him.

“He does want to apologise in court to [the victim] and his mother for his decision-making,” Mr Edwards added.

Passing sentence, Judge Berkson imposed a sexual harm prevention order (SHPO) and granted a restraining order meaning Wilkes cannot contact the victim in any way.

“He thinks it was his fault,” the judge told Wilkes. “It was not his fault. It was you.”

The defendant nodded as he was sent down.

He will serve half of his sentence in custody and half in the community on licence. He will also be required to sign on the sex offenders register.

* After the hearing, Detective Constable Mel Beamish, who led the investigation on behalf of Cheshire Constabulary, said: “Jeremy Wilkes was fully aware that his victim was a 13-year-old boy when he invited him to his house and engaged in sexual activity with him.

“Wilkes did this within hours of first communicating with him via an online dating app.

“He took advantage of a vulnerable young boy for his own sexual gratification and I am delighted that he is now behind bars facing the consequences of his actions.

“I hope the fact that Wilkes has now been convicted and sentenced gives the victim and his family some closure and that they can now begin to move forward with their lives.

“I also hope this case deters others from committing similar offences and that it highlights the need for parents and guardians to warn their children of the dangers of communicating with people online and via dating apps and other forms of social media.

“I urge them to talk to their children about their online activities and to keep an eye out for any signs of them being groomed or sexually exploited.

“You need to be over the age of 18 to join most dating sites, but this does not deter some children from trying to join them.

“Parents and guardians need to know the dangers of communicating with people online and to ensure that their children are aware of them too.”

For advice on how to keep your children safe online visit https://www.getsafeonline.org/safeguarding-children.

To report a sexual offence call Cheshire Constabulary on 101. Information can also be given online at https://www.cheshire.police.uk/tua/tell-us-about or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.