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Guilty: Nightclub DJ Mark Richards from Theale who wanted sex with boy, 13

A CLUB DJ who tried to lure a 13-year-old boy for sex in a car park has been convicted.

Throughout his trial, 66-year-old Mark Richards had indignantly insisted: “I’m not a dirty paedophile.”

The trial took place at Reading Crown Court
The trial took place at Reading Crown Court

He found such behaviour “sick and abhorrent,” he said.

But a jury at Reading Crown Court took just over four hours to unanimously convict him on all charges on Monday, January 22.

The court had heard how the father-of-three had been using gay dating site SCRUFF when he began a conversation with ‘Connor’ who said he was aged 13.

Eventually he arranged to meet in a Burger King car park in Newbury.

On the seat beside Richards, of Leonard Court, off James Butcher Drive, was a bag containing lube and condoms.

But instead of a child, Richards was confronted by undercover police officers from Thames Valley Police’s South East Regional Organised Crime Unit.

Jurors were read transcripts of the conversation between Richards and Connor in which he described sexual acts and repeatedly asked for a photograph of the child in shorts.

Giving evidence, Richards insisted he never thought for a second he was interacting with a child.

He spun a story about how he was trying to ‘catfish’ a man named ‘Steve’ who owed him money.

Catfishing refers to when a person takes information and images, typically from other people, and uses them to create a new identity for themselves.

Throughout his evidence Richards repeatedly told jurors he “had my Miss Marple hat on” until admonished by the judge that the court had got the point.

When he told the supposed 13-year-old: “That’s cool, I like young; I spank bottoms” and steered the conversation towards sexual activities, Mr Richards insisted: “I was being very facetious.”

Gary Rutter, prosecuting, pointed out that, during a police interview following his arrest, Richards had failed to mention anything about ‘Steve’ when giving his account of what happened.

That was because he had invented it, said Mr Rutter.

Ironically, during the conversation with the undercover officer, Richards had warned: “There are some sick paedos around.”

He also insisted: “I’m no bloody sick paedo.”

If it was, indeed, a child, said Mr Richards, he would have sent him on his way with stern words of advice.

But Richards was convicted of arranging to meet a child at Burger King in Newbury to engage in sexual activity with him.

He was further convicted of communicating with a child to persuade him to engage in such activity.

Finally, Richards was found guilty of attempting to communicate with a 13-year-old for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification in Theale.

All the offences occurred on January 16, 2021.

Richards showed no emotion as the jury foreman delivered the verdicts.

Judge Alan Blake told jurors: “Thank you for delivering justice in your community.”

He added: “I must make clear to Mr Richards that all sentencing options remain open and the court must be considering a custodial sentence.”

He adjourned for pre-sentence reports to be prepared on an ‘all options’ basis, including custody.

Richards was meanwhile ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register and was released on unconditional bail.

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