Newbury hotel manager wanted to meet boy, 14, for sex
A FORMER Newbury hotel manager travelled to meet what he believed to be a 14-year-old boy for sex.
But in reality ‘Seb’ was an undercover police officer, posing as a child in order to trap online predators.
On Friday, the former general manager of The Lodge hotel at Newbury Racecourse, Ian Bonner, appeared for sentencing at Guildford Crown Court in Surrey.
The court heard that 49-year-old Bonner chatted up ‘Seb’ after coming across him on the gay dating website Grindr.
Jennifer Gray, prosecuting, said the conversation between Bonner – who called himself Daniel on the site – and ‘Seb’ quickly became sexual.
She added: “Bonner suggested to the undercover officer that they should meet up for sexual intercourse – that was the explicit reasoning in a number of messages.”
The pair continued to engage each other via the online messaging service WhatsApp before arranging to meet in St Luke’s Square, Guildford, on July 6 last year.
Ms Gray went on: “The undercover officer then let Surrey Police know about the arrangement to meet and they went along and arrested him.
“He was found in a possession of a mobile phone which showed the conversation between the pair. He was also in possession of three condoms and a bottle of lubricant.”
Bonner, who was made redundant from his hotel job during coronavirus lockdown, was arrested at the scene.
He subsequently admitted one count of making indecent photographs of children and two counts of being an adult attempting to arrange sexual communication with a child.
Jonathan Reuben, defending, said his client, who now lives at Woodland Walk in Aldershot, Hampshire, had co-operated fully with police.
He added: “He had to come to terms with the difficult reality of both his parents being diagnosed with cancer at around the same time. His mother, with whom he was particularly close, was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
“He found himself on Grindr to escape the reality of life. He predominantly used it to chat and flirt with people. He could appear to be more adventurous than in reality.”
Mr Reuben concluded: “It would be overstating his behaviour to describe it as predatory. He made it clear that ‘Seb’ should not feel under any pressure.”
Judge Alexia Durran said she felt Bonner’s personal circumstances, including his good work for charity and the “soul searching” his barrister described since the incident, meant there was a realistic prospect of rehabilitation.
She told him: “You have come perilously close to prison.
“I repeat – perilously close to prison.”
Instead, Bonner was sentenced to two years imprisonment, suspended for two years.
In addition he was ordered to complete 180 hours unpaid community work.
Bonner will also be required to sign on the Sex Offenders Register and be subject to a 10-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order.