A Hastings man is starting a prison sentence for a series of online sexual offences against three girls who he targeted via social media.
Jamie Welch, 31, a kitchen worker, of St Georges Road, Hastings, was sentenced to a total of three-and-a-half years imprisonment at Hove Crown Court today (Monday August 17th) having pleaded guilty last month to counts of causing each of the three girls to engage, separately, in online sexual activity, and to a further count of disclosing a private sexual photograph without the consent of one of them.
The girls, two from East Sussex and one from Somerset, were aged between 12 and 15 at the time of the offences.
Victim attempted suicide…
He had pleaded not guilty to a further charge of causing one of the girls from East Sussex to engage in sexual activity and the trial judge directed that this should lay on the court files, not proceeded with.
Welch will be a registered sex offender until further court decision and was also given a Sexual Harm Prevention Order, again to last until further court notice, severely restricting his access to children and computer devices.
He was also given court Restraining Orders prohibiting him from ever contacting any of the victims again.
The court heard that Welch, who was 27 when his offences began, showed a predatory and depraved nature when he deliberately targeted young girls through Facebook, pretending to be a good looking 15-year-old boy, using pictures from another boy’s social media account to start online relationships with them.
He incited the girls into sending him indecent images of themselves for his own sexual gratification, before threatening to post their pictures on social media for their families and friends to see unless they continued to meet his sick demands.
Detective Sergeant Jo Cooper, who investigated Welch, said: “He used multiple fake social media accounts throughout his offending and preyed on vulnerable children who were too scared to report him. One victim was so scared after he threatened her she felt unable to leave her home alone. Another victim attempted suicide.
“We commend the bravery of the three victims who found the strength and courage to come forward and give evidence against him, securing his conviction.
‘No sentence can ever reflect what Welch took from the victims…’
“No sentence can ever reflect what Welch took from the victims of his horrendous crimes, but they should feel extremely proud of themselves for standing up to him. I hope they can now find closure and move on in their life without him causing further harm.
“Sussex Police will continue to target those who prey on the most vulnerable within our communities, seeking to hold them accountable for their actions”.
A statement from the family of one of the girls from East Sussex said: “The devastating impact Welch’s actions has had on such a vulnerable child is beyond what we could ever have imagined. The complex challenges this presented resulted in a child having to leave her family to be looked after by experienced carers, requiring intensive support and significantly impairing the usual development and opportunities a young person should have.
“Having encountered such a predator left a great deal of work to be done just to help her feel safe again. Our hope is that the justice today will help ensure that Welch will never prey on the vulnerable again. Leaving the ordeal behind us now we plan to ensure that she has a full recovery and that this man will have no more power to further influence her life.
“Her courageous decision to forgive someone of such a crime which has stolen so much from her, we hope, will play its part in giving him the opportunity to reflect and change as well as giving our brave girl the freedom from the harm he caused, that she so rightly deserves.”
For further information and advice on how to spot child sexual abuse and exploitation, online and elsewhere, and how to report it, see the Sussex Police website.