June 2017

Waltham Abbey man with ‘significant’ mental health issues avoids jail for child sex offences

A man who attempted to get a 14-year-old girl to strip out of her school uniform while on Skype has avoided jail.

Thomas Hagger, 27, of Tillingham Court, Waltham Abbey, who has “significant mental health difficulties” was sentenced at Chelmsford Crown Court on Friday (June 2) after a jury found he had committed five child sex offences between January 2012 and June 2015.

He received a two year supervision order, which will be supervised by a probation officer.

Hagger will also spend five years on the sex offenders register and was given a five year sexual harm prevention order.

He also had to forfeit his computer, which was then destroyed.

Despite being deemed unfit to stand trial because of being a mentally-disordered offender, his case was put before a jury at Chelmsford Crown Court on Monday, May 8.

They found that Hagger had attempted to incite a child to engage in sexual activity, attempted to cause a child to watch a sexual act and had downloaded indecent images of children.

Before the prosecution evidence was delivered, it was explained to the jury they were there to make a finding of fact based on the evidence put before them, rather than a finding of guilt.

The court heard that the investigation into Hagger originally started in Wales, after police received a complaint that a man had attempted to encourage a 14-year-old girl to take her clothes off in a Skype chat on April 28, 2014.

Explaining the prosecution’s case against Hagger, Richard Kelly said: “In the chat, the defendant clearly believed the person he was chatting to was a young girl of school age.

“He asked her what she normally did on webcam. He said she looked ‘okay for 14’. She asked the defendant what he would have her do.

“He established that she was still in her school uniform, he asked her to slowly take off her uniform.”

Mr Kelly explained that the defendant received an attachment called “boobs.jpg” before the chat user revealed they were in fact not a 14-year-old girl, but a much older man who threatened to contact the police.

Then a year later Hagger engaged what he thought to be another young girl in conversation over Facebook, the court heard.

The 12-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had given her parents access to her social media accounts so they could check who she spoke to.

It was on May 2, 2015 that the girl’s stepfather saw a message from a Tom Hagger and began conversing with the account.

“The defendant asked if it was OK if he sent her a picture of his penis,” said Mr Kelly.

“When asked if he realised she was 12, he said he was and continued the messaging.”

It was at this point the victim’s stepfather took screenshots of the messages and the Facebook profile and contacted police.

During his first interview with police, Hagger denied being able to recall the explicit conversations, before later admitting he remembered it slightly.

When officers accessed Hagger’s computers they found various search terms had been used, including “teen chat”, “pre-teen movies” and “chat sites for kids”.

They also discovered the devices contained eight indecent images of children from Category A, the most serious category, 18 from Category B and 72 from Category C.

Owing to the unusual circumstances of the hearing, Hagger’s counsel, Julia Krish, gave no representations in regards to the evidence.

In summing up, Judge Patricia Lynch QC explained to the jury that “justice must be seen to be done”, and asked them to consider facts put before them to reach a conclusion.

After less than 20 minutes of deliberation, the jury returned unanimous decisions on all five counts that Hagger had committed the offences.