Sussex paedophile who posed as teenage girl to snare victims on Facebook jailed
A paedophile from Eastbourne who contacted over 2,000 young girls via Facebook has been jailed for 13 years.
Ryan Croft, an unemployed 23-year-old from Eastbourne, was jailed following a Sussex Police investigation into his online sex offences involving young girls, including one as young as eight, and his possession and use of a series of indecent images, including images of some of the girls he had contacted.
Croft was sentenced at Brighton Crown Court on March 2, having pleaded guilty to all 18 offences at a hearing in January, on what was to have been the first day of his trial.
Croft admitted seven counts of causing and inciting seven girls aged between eight and 13 to engage in sexual activity, and two counts of causing and inciting two other girls, aged between 13 and 15, to engage in sexual activity.
He also pleaded guilty to three counts of downloading indecent images of children, including 72 at Category A, the most serious; three counts of possessing indecent images with a view to distribution, including seven at Category A; and three counts of possession of extreme pornography, consisting of a video depicting bestiality and two videos portraying a depiction of rape.
He was ordered to spend the first eight years of his sentence in custody, and a further five on extended prison release licence supervision.
Croft will also be a registered sex offender for life, and was served with a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) to last until further court order, severely restricting his access to young people and computers.
The prosecution followed an investigation by officers from the Sussex Police Complex Abuse Unit, who were alerted by Lancashire Police about his contact with one of the girls who was aged eight.
Detective Constable Chris Smith said: “Croft contacted girls in some cases as himself, but he also pretended online to be a girl in her late teens who was a model. He befriended over 2,000 young girls via Facebook, most in their early teens. Some had sent indecent images of themselves.
“Of the nine victims he was charged with, four were from the Eastbourne area and five were elsewhere in the UK. Some girls were unidentified and it is also known he contacted girls abroad, as far as the United States and South East Asia.
“He engaged in messaging and Skype to incite them into increasingly sexually explicit exchanges, including indecent acts and exchange of images.
“This was a very complex case in which we had to gain the confidence of vulnerable young girls and their families, all of whom supported the prosecution and were ready to give evidence if needed.
“It is another worrying reminder that young people can be as vulnerable to sexual exploitation online as they can be in direct encounters. “We do ask all young people and their families to exercise care and caution in online contact. What starts off as an innocent encounter can quickly develop into something much more sinister.”