Former soldier spared jail after being caught grooming teenage boys on Grindr by undercover police

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Tim Wates, a former soldier and Ministry of Justice employee who was caught grooming underage boys on Grindr, has been spared jail.

According to KentOnline, Wates, 48, from Dartford, previously served in the territorial army’s London regiment, and has worked in the civil service for the last decade. For the last three years, he has worked with the Ministry of Justice.

Prosecuting at Maidstone Crown Court, Brinder Soora said police were aware that Wates, who is married with four young children, had been using queer dating app Grindr and the messaging app Kik as early as June last year.

Wates began grooming what he thought was a 14-year-old boy named “Olli” on Grindr. But, the “teen” was actually an undercover police officer.

The former soldier sent the child a picture of a topless man in army combats, and two close-up photos of his backside.

Soora said: “Olli said he was reluctant to send any images as he had been banned from Grindr because he was only 14-years-old.”

Wates moved their conversation to Kik, and told Olli that he would send a fake message on Grindr claiming that he was not interested because of the boy’s age.

On Kik, however, he demanded pictures of the 14-year-old and asked him about his sexual experiences and whether he had ever kissed anyone. They then arranged to meet at Olli’s home.

Police raided Wates’ home on 6 August, 2019, and seized his phone. It contained seven illegal photos of children, including one of a naked child.

Despite this discovery, it would take nine months before Wates was charged with any crime, which judge Tony Baumgartner described as “unacceptable”.

He said: “They had control of this investigation, all they had to do was download the Samsung mobile. I can’t see why this has taken so long.”

Tim Wates admitted to four counts of arranging the commission of a child sex offence and possessing illegal images of children, but despite his crimes, he has avoided jail.

He was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for two years, ordered to pay £425 costs and was given 200 hours of community service. He will also have to sign the Sex Offender’s Register.

Days after Wates’s arrest, his wife left him and moved abroad with their children. Before she left, she gave a statement to the prosecution.

He has also had to resign from the army, and is expected to be fired by the Ministry of Justice.