A young boy was groomed on Grand Theft Auto online by a 43-year-old posing as a ‘bisexual chef’
A 43-year-old Swansea man sexually groomed a 12-year-old boy he met while playing a popular online computer game, a court has heard.
Stuart Mullen met and chatted to the child while playing Grand Theft Auto on the XBox Live platform.
He then suggested they start communicating directly with one-another via the messaging service on Facebook, when Mullen pretended to the child he was a 22-year-old bisexual chef.
A judge said that while youngsters were increasingly living their lives online, there were people like Mullen waiting “in the shadows” to prey on them.
Craig Jones, prosecuting, told Swansea Crown Court that once the pair began conversing in private on Facebook the conversation soon turned sexual.
Mullen started asking the boy – who is from the Liverpool area – to send pictures of himself in his school uniform, and then to send him intimate photos.
The court heard Mullen told the boy he loved him, and would call him “my sexy boy”.
At one stage he suggested they meet-up.
The pair also communicated via live video chats – with Mullen claiming his camera was defective as a way of hiding his identity from the boy.
The grooming, which lasted a number of months, came to light when the victim’s mum found concerning text messages on his phone, and contacted Merseyside Police.
Mullen, of Heol Gwyrosydd, Penlan, Swansea, pleaded guilty to inciting a boy under 13 to perform sexual acts when he appeared in the dock.
The court heard details of a victim impact statement from the boy’s mum in which she said the grooming had resulted in a deterioration of her son’s behaviour and caused problems at school, and had affected his relationship with his father.
She added it was “sickening” that an adult could engage with a child in the way Mullen had.
The court heard Mullen had 12 previous convictions for 22 offences starting with one for buggery at Port Talbot Magistrates Court when he was juvenile.
He also has convictions for indecent assaults on two boys aged under 14 – carried out in a shop Morriston – and one for an attempted robbery.
A probation report concluded he was a dangerous offender.
Judge Geraint Walters described what Mullen had done as “truly wicked”, and said his actions would impact on his victim for the rest of his life.
He said: “Young people increasingly live their lives online.
“In the shadows are people like you waiting to prey on vulnerable young people.
“What you are doing, in part, is stealing their childhoods – this kind of behaviour takes away their innocence.”
Mullen was handed a 10-year extended sentence – six years will be spent in custody, and four on an extended licence.