A dad from Orpington who made plans to sexually abuse another man’s seven-year-old daughter has been spared jailed. 

Paul Hardy, 44, of Grosvenor Road, was arrested after an online conversation in which he "enthusiastically" arranged to abuse a young girl. 

Fortunately, the person Hardy was messaging with an undercover officer who was posing as ‘Matt’, a dad with a seven-year-old daughter. 

A court heard that on May 17 last year Hardy asked ‘Matt’ if he likes “family fun”, beginning a conversation about the sexual abuse of children. 

He and ‘Matt’ made plans to meet up so that Hardy could sexually abuse the seven-year-old.

While no date was ever settled on, prosecutor Paul Douglas said: “The defendant was clearly enthusiastic about meeting 'Matt' to commit sexual acts with a seven-year-old girl."

Hardy was arrested the following month and while he at first denied any knowledge of the conversation he later admitted that he knew why the officers were there. 

The dad-of-three pleaded guilty to attempting to arrange an act that would involve the sexual touching of a child under 16. 

At Inner London Crown Court on Friday (July 21) Hardy hung his head in shame while listening to the details of the case. 

Judge Ian Darling said: “I have given this case a lot of thought because there are aspects to it which are concerning. 

“I have read the letters of support and it is noteworthy that some people who you might not expect to show their support for him in these circumstances have been eager to do so.” 

Defence counsel Sean Sullivan explained that while Hardy’s family were shocked, they have stood by him. 

“He is fortunate indeed to have the loving full support of his family,” Mr Sullivan said. 

Sentencing him, Judge Darling said: “Paul Hardy, it is a tragedy and a mystery that you are in this courtroom at all. You are now 44 years of age. You are of good character. By all accounts you have led a near perfect existence as a father, husband and partner. 

“You have shown no signs in your 44 years of ever offending in this way. I say ‘in this way’ because you have pleaded guilty to a serious sexual offending matter. 

“The content of that chat was as abhorrent to the court as I have no doubt it was to all those members of your family who have had to come to terms with the position you are in.” 

Judge Darling continued: “Why this happened is a mystery. There is nothing in your background to explain it. 

“There is collective talk about the impact of the death of your father. I’m not a psychiatrist or a psychoanalyst, and that may be true, but you need to take stock because if this is the manifestation of the pain or loss you are feeling then you will have to be very aware of this in the future.” 


Judge Darling gave Hardy a 16-month sentence but suspended it for two years, meaning he won’t see the inside of a cell unless he commits another offence during that time or if he breaches the terms of his sentence. 

He explained that he was convinced to suspend the sentence by a report from one of the most experienced probation workers in London. 

Judge Darling added that the glowing character references from his family members was another factor that convinced him. 

“Were there a real victim in this case there would have been nothing they could have said to suspend your sentence,” he said. 

As part of his sentence Hardy will have to take part in the Horizon Programme and sign the sex offenders’ register for 10 years.