Teenager jailed for grooming children by pretending to be a pop star and a modelling agent

24/05/2016

A 19 year old man from Cheshire has been given an eight year jail term for grooming children online by pretending to be, amongst other things, a pop star and a modelling agent.

Chester Crown Court heard that David Harmes, from Regent Street in Ellesmere Port, posed as characters that he thought would appeal to young girls.

He claimed to be a member of the boy band "Bars and Melody", and then Zoella Sugg, a beauty and fashion blogger to attract his victims, who came from across the UK and were aged from 8 to 18.

The band and the blogger had no knowledge of what Harmes was doing in their name.

Harmes also pretended to be a modelling agent and a representative of a dance company. In each case he contacted his victims by Skype and used the false identities to coerce them into acts.

Harmes admitted to 35 offences against 24 victims and also asked for a further four to be taken into consideration. The offences include causing or inciting a girl under 13 to engage in sexual activity and making and distributing indecent photographs of a child. He did not meet up with any of the victims.

Harmes must serve five years of the eight year term in prison and three years out on licence.

Wendy Newton is a Senior Crown Prosecutor with the Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO) unit of Mersey Cheshire Crown Prosecution Service.

She said: "Harmes ruthlessly exploited these children for his own sexual gratification.

"The girls, some as young as 8 and 9, thought they were being offered the opportunity to be part of a modelling or dance company or were being given the chance to talk to a member of a famous pop group or fashion blogger.

"Harmes pretended to be characters who would appeal to young girls and then made indecent images of them and distributed them to other people on the internet, with no thought for the acute distress he was causing these children.

"Harmes is yet another offender willing to use the internet and webcams to commit crimes. It is important that parents are aware of what their children are doing online and that they talk to them about the risks of interacting with people they don't know personally.

"Harmes is still a relatively young man with a long prison sentence ahead of him and the Crown Prosecution Service hopes this will act as a reminder to anyone else considering such criminality that they will be caught and will be punished."