A man from Kempston will be behind bars for three years after grooming a teenage girl and persuading her to send him indecent images of herself over a number of weeks.
Richard Downing, 41 of Hastings Road, Kempston, first contacted the young girl by email, pretending to be a boy around her own age.
He started a conversation with her, groomed her and then repeatedly asked her to send him indecent images.
Over the course of a month, Downing manipulating the victim into believing that they were in an online relationship so she would continue to send him images of herself.
Downing was arrested in April 2017 after the girl’s mother saw some of the messages and reported it to police.
The victim’s phone was seized and the email addresses used were traced back to Downing.
He was subsequently charged and pleaded guilty to one count of causing or inciting the sexual exploitation of a child, and four counts of possessing indecent images/pseudo-photographs of a child.
Last Thursday (19 March), Downing was handed a three-year custodial sentence at Luton Crown Court, as well as a 10-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order, which has conditions he must adhere to upon his release.
Nicky Owen, Investigation Officer from Bedfordshire Police’s Internet Child Abuse Investigation team, said, “I am pleased that Downing has received a custodial sentence and will spending the next three years locked away so he isn’t a danger to other young girls.
“He deliberately targeted this young girl on the pretence that he was the same age as her, and groomed her into believing they were in a relationship so she would send him provocative photos of herself.
“We continue to work hard to investigate these horrible sexual predators who think it is acceptable to sexually groom young children online.
“I want to stress that any child can become the victim of grooming, no matter their age, sex, ethnicity or background. If you think that this might be happening to you, or someone you know, then it’s important you speak out and tell someone you trust.”
The signs aren’t always obvious, and groomers will often go to great lengths not to be identified.
If a child is being groomed they may:
• be very secretive, including about what they are doing online,
• have older boyfriends or girlfriends,
• go to unusual places to meet friends,
• have new things such as clothes or mobile phones that they can’t or won’t explain,
• have access to drugs and alcohol.
For further information on grooming and child sexual exploitation, including where to go for advice and support, visit www.bedfordshireagainstcse.org or the NSPCC website.
If you have any concerns about the possible sexual abuse of children, please call police immediately on 101, or 999 if someone is at immediate risk of harm.