Former police officer pleads guilty to sexually abusing girls as young as 12 online
A former South Wales police officer has pleaded guilty to more than 100 charges of inciting children to engage in sexual activity and forcing victims as young as 12 to make indecent images online.
Lewis Edwards, 23, of Bridgend, posed as a young teenager to groom children on Snapchat, gaining their trust before requesting images and videos that he covertly recorded.
He then used the recordings to blackmail his victims into sending him increasingly graphic and explicit images. 12 victims have been identified so far with ongoing work being done to identify and support the remaining victims.
Despite a number of his victims threatening to report him to the police, Edwards showed no remorse for his depraved actions and continued to take advantage of young children.
Edwards was a serving South Wales police officer when his predatory behaviour came to light. He was caught after police intelligence uncovered he had accessed and downloaded indecent images of children from the dark web.
Officers from South Wales Police recovered heavily encrypted electronic devices and a blackmail manual belonging to Edwards when he was arrested.
Lucy Dowdall, Specialist Prosecutor in the CPS’s Organised Child Sexual Abuse Unit, said: “It is particularly shocking that a serving police officer, Lewis Edwards, should be privately targeting children on-line, grooming them and forcing them to satisfy his own sexual interests. Over a period of four years, he engaged in sustained abuse, threatening and blackmailing his victims to provide him with explicit material.
“Edwards wrongly believed that the police would not investigate his activity and arrogantly told victims that was the case. This case demonstrates the determination of law enforcement and prosecutors to bring all on-line sexual offenders to justice.
“The case also illustrates that the Dark Web is not a safe place for sexual offenders to operate. Once intelligence identified Edwards, South Wales Police moved very rapidly to arrest him, and he was charged soon afterwards. The prosecution has stopped his abuse from continuing.
“The CPS Organised Child Sexual Abuse Unit was set up in April 2022, as a specialist unit dedicated to prosecuting child sexual abuse, in all its forms.”
NSPCC Tips to help keep your child safe on Snapchat
1. Make sure they sign up with the correct age
Set up your child’s Snapchat account together to make sure they sign up with correct age. This will automatically enable settings that help to limit unwanted contact from adults and access to certain features.
2. Talk to them about how to feel good on social media
Children and young people can face lots of different pressures online. Use Childline’s advice about How to feel good on social media to help give them the tools to manage their wellbeing online.
3. Set rules around friends
Before your child starts using the app, talk to them about who they can be friends with on the app. Tell them to come to you if they receive a friend request from someone they don’t know.
4. Know where to report
There is a chance that your child could come across inappropriate or upsetting content on Snapchat. If this happens, you should report it to the platform. To report a Snap or a story, press and hold on it, then select ‘Report Snap’.
5. Talk about what is ok / not ok to share
Ensure that your child knows what personal and private information is, and what is, and is not, appropriate to share online.
6. Explore the safety features
Read below about the 10 safety features that are available, like privacy settings and ‘Snapchat Family Centre’.
Notes to editors
Lewis Edwards (15.10.1999) was charged with and pleaded guilty to blackmail, inciting a child to engage in sexual activity (penetrative and non-penetrative), making a child watch a sex act, sexual communication, making of indecent images of children and possession of indecent images of children (category A B and C). There is also a single charge of distribution.