It’s a story that has been going on for the better part of 2018. And like it, there are millions of similar stories every day. Headlines in newspapers across the world read as “Child assaulted by an unknown person” or “Police arrest man for suspected pedophilia and jail him” and so on. That second kind of headline is the kind of headline relating to this particular incident. The man in question is said to be a Goan from Salcete who was arrested in the UK at the end of 2017. As the newspapers reported it, he was arrested for the alleged sexual grooming of two 12-year-old girls.
15 months in a UK jail
Francisco Pereira, a Goan from South Goa, and a Portuguese national was caught in a sting operation in December 2017. The sting was run by an online vigilante group called the Wolf Pack Hunters UK that catches pedophiles. They are believed to have staged it so Pereira believed he was chatting with two young girls. However, in reality, he was chatting with an adult woman, sending allegedly sexually explicit texts and images. Which led to the group setting up a meeting in order to catch him. He was caught and handed over to the police. He pled ‘not guilty’ to the charges of misconduct but after months in deliberation, the court has sentenced him to 15 months in jail.
In his first court appearance at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court, Pereira’s case was heard and he was said to have confidently pled ‘not guilty’. However, the judge was not convinced, saying that the case was “too serious to be dealt with” at magistrates’ court and sent it to crown court for a jury trial.
Held at the Isleworth Crown Court, the judge presiding over the sentencing hearing proceeded to pass concurrent sentences of three months and 15 months for the four charges. Mark Tomassi, representing Pereira argued, saying that it was a ‘thought crime’ as there was no real victim and it had only happened in ‘internet jurisdiction’.
But the sentence was also passed based on the video posted to the Internet that went viral. Judge Wood from the Isle Crown court also impounded Pereira’s passport and said, “I am not returning the passport because of his guilty pleas. This crime is clearly on the custody threshold in my view. Based on what I have heard and read you should expect a prison sentence.”
Pereira’s lawyer Tomassi also argued that Pereira was relatively naive and unsophisticated and even ashamed of what he had done. According to him, even Pereira’s cousin had been arrested for being in possession of the video circulated online.
Judge Wood did, however, seem to have taken note of a few things when passing his sentence. He said that he gave credit to Pereira for attempting to reverse his not guilty plea. Additionally, the fact that even though the video was already online but the ‘girls’ he was trying to meet did not exist, meant that actual intended effect could not have happened. Therefore, he reduced the sentence to just 15 months in a UK jail.