September 2010

Former Cheshire firefighter turned sexual predator jailed for grooming teenage cadets

A SEXUAL predator who abused his position as a youth leader to groom teenage boys has been jailed for four years.

Former firefighter and cadet leader David Ross Gittins, 25, of Windmill, in Pentre Halkyn, Holywell, was sentenced at Chester Crown Court on Thursday (September 16).

His victims were primarily male teenage fire cadets aged between 15 and 16 from Cheshire, whom he befriended during fire cadet meetings.

He bombarded them with requests for explicit images through social networking, instant messaging and webcam sessions.

Ironically, as part of his cadet leader training, Gittins had attended a child protection course to safeguard the youngsters against sexual grooming.

He had taken part in this training during the summer of 2009, just prior to taking a role as a full-time firefighter.

Gittins’ first target was a female cadet, who he begged to have sex with him, despite her reminders that she was only 14.

Again, he repeatedly asked her to send him explicit photographs of herself but also confessed to her that he thought he was a closet homosexual.

After that, he struck up friendships with a number of boys aged between 15 and 16, though he later claimed that he thought the boys were all 16.

On a number of occasions, he invited the boys to his house, where he would ply them with alcohol, tell them he loved them and encourage them to engage in sexual activity, which was then photographed using a mobile phone.

These photographs were then shown to the boys’ peers in a bid to normalise the behaviour and recruit more victims.

Police later found 155 indecent images on his computer.

These mostly involved the male cadets, but included pictures where he had superimposed the face of a 16-year-old who he knew only from Facebook onto an explicit image.

Police also found copies of conversations with a 16-year-old boy who was not a fire cadet, but to whom he had sent images.

Prosecuting, Owen Edwards said: “He is a sexual predator and these boys have been left stressed and confused as a result of his behaviour.

“The pictures were used to show the next in line to encourage them to do the same.

“He has abused a position of trust as their instructor for his own sexual purposes.”

Mary McKeone, defending, said: “It is wholly inappropriate and unacceptable as well as criminal, but his behaviour was misguided as opposed to predatory.

“There was no intimidation or coertion involved, and the period of offending was short-lived.

“It was inevitable that he would be discovered because of the lack of sophistication involved. It was only a matter a time before it was detected.”

Judge Elgan Edwards said that Gittins’ conduct has been “quite disgraceful”.

Sentencing Gittins to four years imprisonment, he added: “Your behaviour is a gross breach of trust. You were, in my view, a sexual predator, using your position in an honourable profession to further your own sexual, lustful excitement.

“People like you must know that if you behave in this way towards young and vulnerable people, you must accept that an immediate custodial sentence is inevitable.

“This has had a devastating effect on them and their families.

“This is a sentence that you richly deserve.”

As well as a custodial sentence, Gittins will be placed on the sex offenders’ register for life.

He is banned from using a computer or accessing the internet except for during the course of his work; using file sharing or peer to peer software; using social networking and instant messaging; inviting anyone under the age of 18 into his home without a parent or guardian present; having contact with any of the complainants.

The order also imposes a lifetime ban on working with children.