41-year-old Matthew Parker, a former first officer at Red Funnel, has been handed down a suspended sentence by Southampton Crown Court after trying to meet a ’13-year-old boy’ after grooming him through the internet.

Parker, from Andover, previously pleaded guilty to arranging or facilitating the commission of a child sex offence. This week he was given a 12-month prison sentence – suspended for 2 years – and ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years. He has also been given a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for a period of 10 years and ordered to complete 55 days of rehabilitation.

The court heard how the ex-senior maritime officer used Grindr and other platforms to contact who he thought was a 13-year-old boy. The boy was actually an adult paedophile hunter, who arranged to meet Parker at Thorpe Park in July 2018. The Police were soon alerted and Parker was arrested.

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Although Matthew talked about kissing, cuddling and holding hands – deemed inappropriate messages – there was never any suggestion of anything further and no photographs were exchanged. Since his arrest, Parker has undergone counselling.

Red Funnel has confirmed that Matthew Parker left their employment in October last year. A spokesperson has said:

“As the court ruling against Mr. Parker does not pertain to his employment at Red Funnel, it would be inappropriate for us make any further comment for legal and data protection reasons.”

A spokesperson for the NSPCC has said:

“Cases like this highlight the serious risk that the online world poses to children.

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“It is imperative that the Government introduces new online safety laws to prevent predators like Parker targeting vulnerable young victims.”