A 'LONER' with few friends who asked how much it would cost to have sex with Filipino children as young as four has been spared jail.
Simon Higgins was arrested after police searched his home in Ploughmans Rise, Droitwich as officers investigated the abuse of children in the Philippines.
The 30-year-old forklift truck driver admitted arranging or facilitating the commission of a sexual offence and making indecent images of children when he appeared at Worcester Crown Court on Wednesday, March 29.
The attempt to arrange the sexual offence took place between the beginning of February and the end of June 2014.
On his phone were found four indecent images of children at level B, the middle category in terms of seriousness.
Paul Whitfield, prosecuting, said Higgins was arrested on September 29, 2015 after police began an operation targeting the abuse of children from the Philippines.
Police seized an iPhone which contained the indecent images and examined Skype chat messages from the defendant to a family in the Philippines.
One of the messages read: “How much would it cost me to have sex with your girls?”
Another read: “You’re now going to ask what I do with the girls when I get back to the UK.”
In one message he asked to be sent an explicit video of a four-year-old.
Mr Whitfield said: “He is attempting at least to arrange a sexual act with a child or children that have already been identified."
Mr Whitfield conceded there was no evidence Higgins had travelled to the Philippines to commit an offence.
Clare Fear, defending, said: “I would suggest these were very much preparatory enquiries that were being made. They are a million miles away from the commission of a substantive offence.”
Miss Fear said if Higgins had been determined to commit the offence he could have done so and urged the judge to use his ‘judicial discretion’.
She emphasised his early guilty pleas but said he ‘absolutely expects a custodial sentence’.
Miss Fear urged the judge to bear in mind the age of the offences, his relative youth and his lack of previous convictions.
She added: “It’s an activity which actually never happened and possibly would never have happened.”
Judge Daniel Pearce-Higgins, sentencing, said 15 months had elapsed between the Skype messages and Higgins's arrest and there was no evidence he had 'followed up' on the messages.
He said: "He is something of a loner, short of friends and social company but with a good work record.
"It seems to me that, in reality, all that has happened here – it's still serious – is an attempt to commit this offence rather than the actual offence itself."
The judge sentenced him to a three year community order with a single requirement – to participate in the sexual offenders group work programme.
"It should not be thought that this is an easy option" said Judge Pearce-Higgins.
A sexual harm prevention order was also made for a period of five years and the prosecution will be awarded £1,200 costs. The phone will be seized and destroyed.