A former Coronation Street director who attempted to engage in sexual conversations with a “13-year-old girl” has been spared jail.
Tim Dowd thought he was talking with an underage web user when in fact he was actually having intimate chats with an undercover female police officer, prosecutors said.
The 66-year-old asked the officer, who pretended to be a teenager named Chantelle, to engage in phone sex with him and to send images of her naked breasts.
He also quizzed her on whether she had ever slept with an older man.
A court heard how he also requested, believing he was talking with an underage girl, that the undercover officer touch herself as he spoke with her on the phone.
Prosecutors explained how the freelance director, who has also worked on episodes of Emmerdale and Heartbeat during a career spanning 30 years, carried on talking to the user despite repeatedly being told she was 13.
Following a three-day trial at Leeds Crown Court, Dowd, of Chatsworth Grove in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, was found guilty of three counts of attempting to incite a child to engage in sexual activity and one count of attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child, all relating to a four-day period in January last year.
On Thursday, he was handed a two-year community order, with a maximum 30-day rehabilitation activity requirement.
Dowd was also given a five-year sexual harm prevention order and was told to pay prosecution costs of around £1,500.
Giving the sentence, judge Rodney Jameson QC said of the offences: “These were all attempts and they were attempts because there was no 13-year-old child but no doubt in your mind there was.”
Detailing how Dowd’s marriage and relationship with his children had broken down following the offences, he added: “The consequences of this conviction have been severe for you, I accept.
“You have lost, essentially, your employment and in reality any likelihood of being employed further in the high-profile work, as it was, which you were engaged in as a television director.
“It is unfortunate that even at the age of 66 you are tormented by your own sexual desires.”
The judge added that, although there was technically no victim to Dowd’s crimes, he effectively punished himself with his actions by losing his good character.
A court heard how the conversations started on a site named Lycos Chat when Dowd interacted with a user by the name of Chantelle13Cymru on January 12 last year.
Not realising this was an anonymous undercover officer, Dowd quickly moved the chat on to WhatsApp, before phoning her.
The officer, who gave evidence anonymously during the trial, said she had to input an age above 16 to join Lycos but said she was able to pose as a 13-year-old.
In his defence, Dowd claimed he believed the person he was talking to was an adult pretending to be underage as part of a sexual fantasy, despite frequently seeking clarification on her age.
Jurors heard how he lost his job shortly after being arrested at a property in East Keswick, Leeds, having spoken with the officer between January 12 and January 15 last year.
Max Saffman, defending Dowd, told the court: “His successful career as a television director is finished. There is no way back for him as a result of this conviction.
“Any thought he might have regarding directing further television programmes has been extinguished.”
Mr Saffman said his client had been guilty of “foolish behaviour” but added Dowd had shown no intent to engage in further sexual conversation with the web user.