Lancashire Police and the Child Sexual Exploitation Team are working tirelessly to root out people willing to meet and offend against children online.
It can be a long, harrowing complex process to reach a courtroom, but sometimes, the hard work pays off as in the case of university student Jo Goodwin.
Goodwin, of Pope Lane, Penwortham, Preston, was jailed for 20 months for responding to the profile of a school girl on a dating site.
Wthin 50 minutes of her profile being posted, the 19-year-old Lancaster University student, using the name “Mr.Humperdinckle” and a profile picture of his private parts, responded.
He told the 12-year-old child: “Call me Daddy” as he tried to encourage her into sexual acts. He later admitted a string of 10 sexual offences.
In this case, the ‘12-year-old girl’ was actually an undercover police officer. But other victims are real Lancashire children.
It is vital that young people understand the importance of staying safe online and parents can spot the signs that may indicate their child is being groomed.
Convicted paedophile David Alan Monks, of Golden Hill Lane, Leyland, is facing sentencing next month for paying a 13-year-old boy in central Lancashire for sexual acts after the vulnerable youngster advertised a list sexual services for payment on dating app Grindr.
The 58-year-old, who had worked part time at a sandwich shop in Leyland, admits three counts of paying for sexual services from a child after being caught during a probe called Operation Hibiscus.
Monks, who has grown up children, will be sentenced before Burnley Crown Court on June 30.
It isn’t the first time he has committed similar acts.
In 2005 the Post revealed he groomed 15-year-old boys, paying one of his schoolboy victims a total of £800 to take part in months of sexual abuse.
He also gave the Chorley boy a camera as a present and took him out for meals, and on a single occasion persuaded a friend of his first victim to take part in a sexual act.
He was given an indeterminate prison term with a minimum of three years.
Sources told the Post that Monks, who previously worked for a utility firm for 25 years, had been living with another convicted sex offender.
During the same probe, police netted a terminally ill paedophile, who was jailed for 11 years in February.
David Parkinson’s vile crimes mirrored the plot to the US TV series Breaking Bad, when he began dealing crystal meth after receiving a terminal diagnosis.
He had lived in Australia and working in the finance industry when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2007.
After moving to Leyland Lane, Leyland, he became involved in the drug dealing business, using his position as a supplier to lure vulnerable children to his house for sex, using apps including Grindr.
He was arrested after travelling to London from his Leyland home to meet his supplier and had £5,000 drugs in his bag.
But a search of Parkinson’s mobile revealed how Parkinson had exchanged intimate pictures with a 13-year-old child, and then meeting up for sex.
He filmed one of their encounters on his iPhone and videoed himself kissing the boy, who he argued he did not know he was aged under 16.
He also admitted giving a second 13-year-old boy money, alcohol, and cigarettes in exchange for sex. He admitted conspiracy to supply crystal meth, possession with intent to supply crystal meth, arranging sexual activity with a 13-year-old and paying for sexual activity with a 13-year-old.
During the same investigation, notorious Yorkshire paedophile Nigel Delaney was also caught engaging in similar offences against a Lancashire youngster and was sentenced on Monday.
Delaney, 65, of New North Road, Huddersfield, was jailed for 17 years at Burnley Crown Court on June 26.
He admitting five counts of making indecent images, two of distributing them, six of breaching a sexual harm order by communicating with boys under 17, two of inciting a boy, aged 14 and 15, into sexual activity, and three of facilitating the sexual exploitation of a boy by offering payment for acts, relating to three boys aged 14, 15 and 16.
He also admitted twice failing to comply with notification requirements, and twice attempting to meet a child to commit an offence.
Judge Jonathan Gibson ordered sex toys, contraception, a mobile phone and two tablets to be forfeited.
DCI Simon Dent from Lancashire Constabulary’s Public Protection Unit said: “The public quite rightly expects us to protect children from being exploited, particularly as online grooming is a growing crime and one of the biggest threats.
“Our dedicated teams of officers work in multiagency teams throughout Lancashire every day with young people who are being exploited to firstly get them to recognise that they have been or are being exploited, and to find ways of helping them to break free from the position they find themselves coerced into.
“It is vital that young people understand the importance of staying safe online and parents can spot the signs that may indicate their child is being groomed.
“We would encourage anyone who has been, or knows someone who has been, sexually abused, groomed or exploited to come forward and contact police confident in the knowledge they will be dealt with sensitively and professionally.
“If you are concerned about a young person you know, call Lancashire Constabulary on 101. In an emergency, always dial 999.
“You can also visit www.lancashire.police.uk/cse for lots more information, or visit our website dedicated for young people- www.trusted2know.co.uk/e-safety/online-grooming for help and advice.”
Expert advice on how to stay safe online
Cristina Izura, an academic from the Department of Psychology at Swansea University gives advice on ensuring youngsters are safe online, following her involvement in the Online Grooming Communication Project.
She says: “Online grooming is a prevalent problem on the increase. Accurate figures are difficult to determine because: first, children rarely report experiences of sexual abuse and second, most of the sexual predators around the world have internet access.
“Najal Maala, the UN Special Rapporteur for the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, estimated on 750,000 the number of sexual predators connected to the internet at any one time (2009). This figure is in line with the rate of online sexual requests (over 20,000 in two months) received by researchers posing as children in social sites for the Terra des Hommes project ‘Becoming Sweety’ in 2003.
“There are some groups of children that seem to be more vulnerable than others to be groomed online such as girls between 12 and 15 years of age, but the truth is all children are at risk. As a parent, carer or guardian we cannot assume it is not going to happen to our child.
She adds: “We understand online grooming as a communicative process that is used, extremely successfully, by sexual predators to lure children into online and/ or offline sexual interactions. In this process the groomer will very effectively build an intimate bond with the child, persuading her or him the relationship they share is genuine and their sexual encounters natural and of benefit to the child.
“The way groomers used language and their communicative strategies varies from one to another. We have detected so far two ‘types’ of groomers: those that are more sexually explicit and those that are more interested in building a relationship with the child. This adds difficulties when we want to detect online grooming because the use of the sexual language is not so apparent in all cases.”
According to Cristina, the stereotypical groomer – who lies about his age and appearance, takes time to build a relationship with the child, talks as an adolescent and never reveals his sexual desires until an offline encounter is arranged – is rare.
She explains: “Groomers are often fast, honest about their age and sexual interest, and the sexual encounter can occur online eg explicit sexual conversations, interchange of pictures, sexual activity through the webcam.
“The best we can do to ensure our kids are safe online and offline is to build trusting relationships with them. Ensure they can confide in you and share any problems, worries they might be experiencing. We can also be open with our kids and explain to them as plainly as we can the dangers of online environments.
“Some sexual predators rely on the fact that children do not know they even exist.”