Norwich sex offender thought undercover police officer was girl, 12

Benjamin Merrifield

Benjamin Merrifield has been jailed after having admitted attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child under 16. - Credit: Norfolk Constabulary

A man who was shot in the head by a friend five years ago became involved in sexual conversations with a police officer he thought was a 12-year-old girl.

Benjamin Merrifield, 36, came to the attention of police after the defendant logged into an internet site and started chatting online to someone he thought was a 12-year-old girl.

But Norwich Crown Court heard the child was an “undercover law enforcement officer”.

Lori Tucker, prosecuting, said the defendant was made well aware that the person he thought he was talking to was a 12-year-old girl.

But Miss Tucker said the chats, which began in March this year, soon became “sexualised conversation”.

Merrifield, of Mousehold Avenue, off Gurney Road, Norwich, asked the officer for images of herself and what underwear she was wearing. 

Merrifield appeared at court on Monday (September 20) having admitted attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child under 16.

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The defendant, who has eight convictions for 12 offences, but nothing of a sexual nature, also admitted two counts of attempting to incite a child under 16 to engage in sexual activity. 

Sentencing him to a total of three years and four months in custody Judge Katharine Moore said it was “sheer good fortune” the victim turned out to be an undercover police officer and that “no harm was caused to a child”.

Andrew Oliver, mitigating, said he had no prior convictions for this type of offending and should be given credit for his pleas.

He said Merrifield has a number of problems, some going back to his childhood, including him being “accidentally shot by a friend of his in the side of his head about five years ago”.

It has led to problems, including forgetfulness.

The defendant has also used illicit drugs, including cannabis, to help deal with his issues.

He insisted the judge must take into account the fact there was no actual victim. 

Merrifield was made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order (SHPO) indefinitely to protect children from sexual harm from him. as well as having to sign on the sex offenders register indefinitely.

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