May 2019

‘Predatory, manipulative and persistent’ paedophile who groomed girls using social media

A ‘predatory and manipulative’ paedophile sent sexual messages to girls from his university halls of residence and tried to meet up for sex, a court heard.

Thomas Groom, 23, has been jailed for six years for committing the offences against seven girls over a number of years.

He met up with one girl after an online grooming campaign and encouraged her to perform sexual acts.

Groom, a former student at Manchester Metropolitan University, threatened to post explicit images girls had sent him to porn websites unless they did what he said.

The victims told how they had been left ‘traumatised’.

After he was arrested in his halls of residence for his behaviour towards one girl, examinations of his phone revealed even more offences against others.

Manchester Crown Court heard how Groom, originally from Northampton, started chatting with one girl, who was under 16, on Snapchat. He said he was 17, and was friendly at first, the court heard.

He began to become threatening, saying he would put her details onto a porn website if she didn’t meet him in Manchester.

He continued to ‘pester’ her to send nude photos of herself, which she did.

She became scared of Groom, and sent more pictures as the demands continued.

At one point he said he would leave her alone, but shortly after said: “Did you really think I was going to leave you alone?”

Groom told her that he had saved all of the pictures, and was going to put them onto porn websites and on social media unless she met up with him.

After she blocked him on Snapchat, Groom began to call her on the phone, and she became ‘terrified’.

The girl alerted her mother, who was able to track Groom down on social media and recovered some of the messages he had sent, passing them onto the police.

At one point Groom called the phone, which the mother still had, about 30 times in as many minutes as it continued to go unanswered.

When she eventually answered, Groom told her: “Do you want me to do what I said I would do?”

In a later message, he said: “FFS. Just talk to me or I will release the nudes.”

Groom was eventually arrested at his halls of residence in Manchester.

He initially refused to hand over his PIN number, but when police examined his phone they uncovered even more offences against six children.

Three have been identified and contacted by police, with three others being untraceable.

Groom had sent indecent images to another girl under 16 via WhatsApp, and asked if she would come to Manchester to meet him.

He met up with another girl under 16 for sex after grooming her on social media.

On one occasion Groom told her: “You should know the risks I am taking by doing it.”

He sent sexual messages to another girl, and demanded pictures in return.

Groom repeatedly asked to meet up with the girl for sex, and offered to pay for her train fare.

He also exchanged indecent images with another girl under 16, who he later persistently asked to come to Manchester for sex.

She then blocked him, and he later threatened to kill himself unless she would meet up with him.

Groom also sent and received indecent images from another girl.

In statements read to the court by prosecutor Mark Monaghan, one of the girl’s mother said her daughter has been left ‘traumatised’.

Others spoke of their ‘feelings of guilt’, feeling ‘isolation’, having difficulties sleeping and how one now avoids Manchester.

Defending, Khadim Al’Hassan said Groom, who has no previous convictions, had admitted his guilt from the outset and is ‘thoroughly ashamed of what he has done’.

Mr Al’Hassan claimed Groom shows ‘genuine remorse’.

But Judge Stuart Driver QC said: “The impression I get is he is a young man who feels very sorry for himself.”

Sentencing, the judge told Groom: “You are a predatory, manipulative and persistent sexual offender against girls.”

He said the offences against the girl who he met on Snapchat had a ‘particularly nasty flavour’.

“You threatened her with various things including sending images that you had of her to a child sex porn site,” Judge Driver added.

“A horrible thing to do, aggravating the offence.

“You met up with one girl.

“The 17 counts for which you are to be sentenced relate to seven girls.

“This is not mere online offending. The impact that your behaviour had upon their young lives was not virtual but actual and was significant.”

Groom, of Gervase Square, Northampton, pleaded guilty to 17 offences in total.

This includes six counts of causing or inciting a child into sexual activity; two counts of attempting to cause a child to watch a sexual act; one count of meeting a child following sexual grooming; one count of sexual activity with a child; two counts of possession of indecent photos of children; two counts of causing a child to watch a sexual act; one count of attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming; one count of attempting to incite a child into sexual activity and one count of attempting to possess indecent images of a child.

A sexual harm prevention order was imposed, which means Groom must sign the sex offenders register for life.