April 2018

Student blackmailed young girls into performing degrading sex acts via the internet

A Liverpool student blackmailed more than two dozen young girls and women into performing degrading sex acts via the internet for his sick pleasure.

Joshua Probert used devious tactics to get his victims to send him intimate photographs of themselves and then resorted to “sextortion”.

One of his 26 horrified and embarrassed victims – who come from England, Scotland, Wales, the USA, France, Belgium and the Netherlands – described it as “cyber rape” and when eventually interviewed by police he admitted: “I know, it’s terrible.”

He ignored desperate pleas from his distressed victims – 11 of them children – to delete images and videos in which he had ordered them to perform depraved sex acts on themselves, call him ‘master’ and hold up signs saying their body was his.

Such was the fear and trauma he caused by threatening to share the footage some of the victims contemplated killing themselves. One 14-year-old girl described herself to him as “the most broken teenager right now”.

Probert also shared some of the videos he had with other perverts.

Jailing Probert for 12 years today with four years extended licence Judge Gary Woodhall said: “When you were 18 years old addicted to pornography you embarked on a course of conduct which involved using the internet and applications such as KIK to identify young females who could be persuaded to exchange nude or sexualised images with you.

Having got them to send them revealing images Probert, who sometimes pretended to be a female, then saved them and used them together with personal information taken from social media to blackmail them.

Probert also used Skype, threatened to distribute the images directly to family and friends or distribute them on social media such as Facebook to force them to do his bidding.

Judge Woodhall said: “These were particularly sinister threats designed to place the females in an invidious position – either face public humiliation… or agree to your sick and depraved demands.

“These offences were designed to allow you to obtain sexual images and videos of these females for your own sexual satisfaction causing significant emotional harm to them.

“Many of your victims, particularly the younger ones, felt unable to stand up to you and chose the humiliation of performing your demands rather that suffering public humiliation. The demands… involved you exercising sadistic control over the females.”

They were “bullied” into performing on a live webcam or send images to his computer which he saved. His demands involved them engaging in “debasing, degrading and humiliating sexual acts, demands involving exercising dominance over your victims exerting power and control, sado-masochistic in nature.”

The judge ruled that he poses a significant risk to serious harm particularly to young females which means that Probert will have to serve two thirds of the sentence before he can apply for parole.

Probert, of Portland Avenue, Grimsby, had pleaded guilty to 66 offences involving blackmail, making indecent images and causing victims to engage in sexual activity between January 2014 and November last year. Three other similar offences were left to lie on the file.

Liverpool Crown Court that Probert, who has no previous convictions, had studied at John Moores University in the city where he gained a BSc degree in sports sciences and had aspirations to become a teacher. While there he undertook a safeguarding course.

Henry Riding, prosecuting, said that Operation Antenna was commenced by the North West Regional Cybercrime Unit (TITAN) following a complaint received by Merseyside police about ‘sextortion’. Intelligence checks led to Probert’s IP address and a search warrant was obtained for his home address.

Officers arrived at 6.30am on December 27 last year but he had locked the door and cowered under his bed for 40 minutes while trying to delete data from his laptop.

Detailed forensic examination of his computer revealed folders containing dozens of images and videos of his victims and more were found on USB sticks.

Probert was ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register for life and an indefinite Sexual Harm Prevention Order was made restricting his internet use.