Peterborough paedophile jailed after being caught out by 'decoy' profiles

Neil Higgins believed people he was messaging were four young girls – but they were adults

By Stephen Briggs
Wednesday, 20th July 2022, 8:57 am

A Peterborough paedophile who messaged four girls under the age of 16 was caught out when all four ‘children’ turned out to be adults.

Neil Higgins, 45, spoke to who he believed were four young girls on messaging apps between 17 September and 13 October 2020.

When he was caught he showed no remorse for his offending – and now he has been jailed for more than four years.

Neil Higgins, who has been jailed for more than four years

Peterborough Crown Court heard how Higgins, who was convicted in 2014 for making indecent images of children and was placed on the Sex Offenders Register for five years, came off the register in September 2019 but offended again a year later.

His messages to the ‘girls’ included requesting photos of them in their underwear, asking them to meet up and asking them to perform sexual acts on themselves.

Further investigations revealed Higgins had messaged approximately 200 other people – with 11 of these indicating they were under the age of 16.

Out of the 15 different ‘children’ Higgins messaged, officers established that he caused or incited two of them to engage in sexual activity, asked 12 profiles for pictures, and told 13 of the profiles that they were ‘sexy’.

A search was carried out at his home at the time of the offences in Peterborough and numerous items were seized, including a small amount of cannabis.

In police interview Higgins, of no fixed address, admitted sending the messages but stated he never intended to do any of the things he talked about in them – such as meeting the ‘girls’ in person or having sex with them.

He claimed people who wanted to do so were ‘sick in the head’ and said he was not like that. Higgins told officers he was in a ‘dark place mentally’ which had driven him to offend again.

He was subsequently charged with possessing cannabis, four counts of attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child and two counts of attempting to cause or incite a girl aged 13 to 15 to engage in sexual activity.

Higgins admitted the offences at Cambridge Crown Court on 4 May. He was sentenced at Peterborough Crown Court yesterday (19 July), where Judge Sean Enright told him he had shown a ‘determined and sustained effort to meet young girls for sex’ and had also shown no remorse for his crimes.

Higgins was handed four years and six months in prison, with a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) to run indefinitely and monitor any future offending.

Mark Escott, from the force’s Paedophile Online Investigation Team (POLIT), said: “We will do all we can to bring those to justice who use the internet in this way - to groom and try to meet children under 16. Higgins’ behaviour was shocking and inappropriate.

“Phones and social media mean children can be vulnerable to those who prey on their innocence and exploit their trust. I would urge parents to speak to their children about online safety and consider exactly who they are communicating with.

“Protecting young people from harm is one of our top priorities and we will continue to work tirelessly to keep our communities safe.”