May 2018

28-year-old with ‘total lack of sexual experience’ jailed for grooming pre-teen girl over WhatsApp

Two men from the Cotswolds who persuaded a pre-teen girl to perform sex acts on messaging service WhatsApp were caught when her shocked mum saw an indecent message arrive on her daughter’s phone, a court heard yesterday.

Richard Hall, 28, of Mays Crescent, and Christopher Hanks, 19, of Northleach, had both contacted the girl separately via the messaging service and were not acting together when they each got her to engage in a sexual act, the court was told.

Judge Ian Lawrie QC jailed Hall for four years and sentenced Hanks to 28 months in a young offender institution.

They had each admitted two charges of causing or inciting a girl under 13 to engage in a sexual act

Richard Posner, prosecuting, said both men had met the girl socially at a club. Nothing untoward had happened between them face to face – all the indecency had occurred over WhatsApp, he said.

The offending came to light on May 8 last year when the girl’s mother asked to look at her phone because she was thinking of buying a similar model, Mr Posner said.

As she was looking at it a WhatsApp message came in from ‘Jumbo’ – Hall’s nickname. The message included a picture of Hall exposing his private parts.

The mother immediately sent Hall a message calling him a pervert and she called the police.

Officers checked the phone and found that Hall had persuaded her to send him naked pictures of herself. He had sent pictures to her of him pleasuring himself.

At times he had told her if she did not send pictures of herself he would stop talking to her. He also told her by text that they could only become boyfriend and girlfriend when she was old enough to have sex.

Messages and indecent images from Hanks to the girl were also found on the phone, Mr Posner said.

The girl told police she had been in communication with Hanks for about a month in that way. 

Her communications with Hall went on for longer than with Hanks and were at their peak in May/June last year when they exchanged 1,297 WhatsApp messages.

“She was encouraged to behave in a sexualised way,” Mr Posner said.

In a victim impact statement the girl said she had not yet processed how the defendants’ behaviour had affected her and she just wanted to get it all over and move on with her life. She said felt ‘guilty and ashamed’ and did not want to see them again.

The girl’s mother said she was devastated and felt she had lost some of the bond between herself and her daughter.

“I didn’t want her to have her phone back,” she said. “I feel I don’t want her to have that freedom.

“I am now always uncomfortable when she is in her room with her computer. I am scared about what could have happened. It makes me really angry.

“I honestly thought this would never happen. I feel part of her childhood has been stolen from her.”

Passing sentence Judge Lawrie said the offences involved emotional blackmail of the girl as well as a ‘certain amount of grooming’ and there had to be immediate jail terms for both men.