July 2017

Former soldier and father-of-four, 29, who treated a 15-year-old girl as ‘an object for his sexual gratification’

A former soldier who sent explicit pictures to a 15-year-old girl as he trained her up for a career in the British Army has been jailed.

Physical training instructor Andrew Sharp, 29, inappropriately messaged the youngster on Facebook saying: ‘You’re sexy – do it for me babe, I’ll do it for you.’

Over a two month period the father-of-four treated the girl as ‘an object for his sexual gratification’ telling he would not stop her if she wanted to be ‘flirty’ with him.

When she said she was not yet 16, Sharp suggested they didn’t need to wait if she were to keep quiet adding: ‘If you were here now I would teach you.’

Sharp was arrested after the messages and pictures were found by her father who went onto Facebook to discover his daughter had forgotten to log out of her account.

The girl – who cannot be named – later told police she felt as if she had ‘let down’ her parents and the disclosures had a severe impact on her hopes of a successful career in the armed forces.

At Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester, Sharp, from Cadishead, near Salford, admitted charges of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and was jailed for 20 months.

His current girlfriend – who works as a surgical assistant for the NHS – is thought to standing by him.

The court heard he had been in the army for a decade until he was injured in active service when an explosive device killed his friend. He then began freelancing as a PT instructor.

Prosecuting, Charlotte Crangle, said: ‘The defendant initially agreed but the powers that be decided she was too young.

‘However the defendant then approached her and it was discussed with her parents and they agreed not knowing there had been the original refusal.

‘They wanted to boost her self confidence. A relationship developed between her and the defendant.

‘They became friendly and she received a friend request from the defendant on Facebook.

‘They began to message each other, private messages were initially in relation to training sessions, arrangements and diet.

‘This progressed to flirting conduct, the defendant starting off saying he was not going to stop her if she started flirting with him in sessions.

‘But on a more regular basis he told her he liked her but didn’t want to get in to any trouble and to keep it ‘hush hush’, and if she wanted there could be more.

‘He then requested photographs of her of an intimate nature. He asked her about her previous sexual experiences and when she was asked to send pictures she said she didn’t want to and was not keen.

‘But he carried on repeatedly making the requests saying he would send her pictures and if she was interested she could see more, continuing to say ‘please delete the messages’.

‘He told her he really wanted to see more of her. She replied “I’m not a picture person”, he said “start being then, I know you’re confident and you’re sexy” adding “do it for me babe, I’ll do it for you”.

‘She then did start to send some pictures and he sent one of himself naked from the waist up.

‘She sent a few of herself in underwear. He expressed a like for that but asked for more naked ones.

‘After these further requests she sent one of her bare breasts. After these were sent again he made comments about liking them and made reference to sex in that he said “do you want me in you?”

‘When she replied a comment about after her birthday indicating she was not yet 16 he suggested they didn’t need to wait if she were to keep quiet.

‘He said “if you were here now I would teach you”. Contact carried on between them until it was discovered by her father.

‘He was looking at his own phone and some messages showed up, he didn’t recognise any of the senders and noticed that she had logged in and hadn’t logged out. 

‘The messages included the photographs. He reported the matter to the police.

Sharp later admitted sending the messages but said the girl had added him as a Facebook friend. He said he sent an inappropriate picture of himself to her while ‘in drink’.

Miss Crangle added: ‘He said he was not sexually attracted to her and didn’t want any sexual relations.

‘This has had a significant impact on the girl and her family and the relationship between her and her parents. She feels she has let them down.

‘It’s had an impact in the career the army she was hoping for and her own health and wellbeing in terms of her confidence and also her mental health in dealing with the aftermath of the incident.

Passing sentence, Judge John Potter said: ‘You have previously have a commendable background in the armed forces but it seems you embarked on a wholly inappropriate course of behaviour towards this 15-year-old child.

‘You befriended her on Facebook which you must have known was completely wrong.

‘You intentionally engaged in conversation by Facebook with her which escalated to content of a sexualised nature.

‘You began to send flirtatious sexual messages asking her to delete them once she had read them.

‘What you were seeking to do was encourage her to send you this material for your own sexual gratification.

‘Treating her as an object of your sexual gratification rather than the child that she was. 

‘You responded to the pictures by indicating you wished to have penetrative sexual activity with her.

‘Your victim pointed out she was underage it seems that didn’t discourage you from encouraging her to have sexual contact with you despite the fact she was 15.

‘This was nothing more or less than the sexual abuse of a child. You were almost twice her age.

‘Thankfully no physical sexual contact took place between you but that does not mean that this was not child abuse.

‘You have, it seems, destroyed most of her hopes and ambitions of service to the armed forces and had an affect on her self confidence.

‘It’s hoped what I’m saying now will provide her with some hope and that can be restored and she can go on to live a full and ambitious life.

‘You appear to display a significant lack of remorse for your offending, seeking to blame your victim for your offending behaviour. There’s clear abuse of trust.

‘You are somebody who has served your country with distinction and have at some time been able to live a proper family life.

‘It’s a personal tragedy that you find yourself being sentenced for child abuse when other matters in your life give you credit.’