Teenage boy jailed after posing online as a girl to commit sex offences against boys - Watford

|News, Sexual offences , Cyber / online crime

A teenager, who posed as a young girl online to persuade boys to perform sex acts on webcams was sentenced to six years detention today, Thursday, 23 November 2017.

Harry Johnson, aged 19, called himself Melissa, Amie or Becca as he groomed seven youngsters aged between 11 and 16. He exchanged explicit messages and sent them images of girls before he recorded them performing sex acts, St Albans Crown Court heard.

When police raided his home in Watford in July last year they found that the civil engineering student had stored the recordings on his computer, where he had also downloaded child sex abuse images and videos at Category A, B and C.

Johnson of Hunter's Lane, Watford appeared for sentence, having pleaded guilty to 22 charges - four of causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity, seven of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, two of causing or inciting sexual exploitation of a child, six of taking indecent photographs of a child, and three of possessing indecent images of a child.

Prosecutor Simon Wilshire said: "Over a period of a time, between January and July 2016, Johnson posed on the Internet as a young female. He made contact with a number of young boys ranging in age from 11 to 15 or 16. He posed as a young girl and incited the boys to engage in sexual activity over the Internet. At times he recorded the activity that was going on in front of him. Not only had he duped and misled young boys to commit sex acts at the end of a webcam, he recorded videos and stored them."

The court heard Johnson was caught when the parents of one of the victims "exercised due diligence" and checked what their son had been doing on his iPad. They found private messages with someone called MelissaB178. Mr Wilshire said: "They challenged him and he admitted he had been sending explicit texts and had used the webcam. He was embarrassed, ashamed and upset. The parents reported it to police, who were led to Johnson's home address." When Johnson's computer was examined they found he had recorded six other boys.

One victim, who was 14, had been sent a picture of a girl he thought he was talking to. He tried to block the 'girl,' but she said she would send photos of him to friends.

Mr Wilshire said over 600 Category A, over 650 Category B and more than 3,000 Category C indecent images and videos of children had been downloaded by Johnson onto his computer.

Defending, Franco Tizzano said that Johnson had just turned 18 at the time he started offending. He said Johnson had been the victim of abuse himself.

In a note read to the court Johnson said: "I am truly sorry to the people I targeted and the people I hurt as a result of my actions. I was thoughtless and selfish. I know I can't undo what I have done."

Judge Stephen Warner told him: "The seven boys were young and vulnerable. You took advantage and exploited them for your own sexual gratification. Those young people are entitled to the protection of the law. I have to take into account the effect your offending has on them and their families at a sensitive time in their development."

In addition to the custodial sentence, the Judge ordered the forfeiture and destruction of Johnson's computer and memory sticks. Johnson must also abide by the terms of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for six years and register as a sex offender indefinitely.

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