An ex-soldier sent a teenage girl a naked photo of himself – and asked for one of her in return.
40-year-old Dean Bird pleaded guilty to engaging in sexual communication with a child and was sentenced at Swindon Crown Court today (Tuesday).
Edward Hetherington, prosecuting, said the defendant had liked and commented on the 14-year-old’s selfies on her Instagram account numerous times in late 2020.
In January 2021, he sent the girl a flame emoji – which is accepted as meaning you find someone ‘hot’ (attractive). She alerted a family member to the message and he took over the conversation.
Bird, who lives in Swindon and works as a scaffolder, said he needed a shower after a hard day and spoke about his military service.
During the exchange, the girl’s family member confirmed her age to the man. He proceeded to ask for a photograph, saying that he would not tell anyone about it.
Bird was sent a photograph containing the girl’s face. In response, he sent her a photograph of his legs followed by one of his erect penis. He went on to ask her for a naked photograph.
The family member downloaded a photograph of a naked adult woman from the internet and sent it to the defendant – and he responded “wow” with a smiling face emoji with stars in its eyes.
The family member – who knew Bird through a friend – attended his address, banging on his door and making threats. Police were called to the scene, and were shown evidence of his online behaviour.
The court heard that the former soldier, who was shot in the leg by the Taliban in Afghanistan, has previous convictions for dangerous driving and violence.
Chris Smyth, defending, said his client’s “mind was all over the place” at the time of the offending.
Adding that Bird suffers from mental health issues as a result of his military service. On a mission together, his best friend was shot and killed by the Taliban. On another, he was shot in the leg. He was medically discharged from the army more than ten years ago.
Mr Smyth said the defendant works as a scaffolder for various firms and lives alone in a two-bed rented flat after the recent ending of a ten-year relationship.
He also played rugby for Cheltenham up until 2021, has an interest in fishing and played ice hockey for Swindon Rec Wildcats Ice Hockey Team – where he was, at one point, a captain.
Judge Jason Taylor said he was confident Bird would not re-offend, imposing a two-year community order with the requirement to complete 175 hours of unpaid work.
He must also complete the Horizon sex offenders’ programme and 30 rehabilitation activity days with the probation service.
Bird was made subject to a ten-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order with eight terms – one of which prohibits him from communicating with under 18s unless there is a legitimate reason.
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