February 2010

Internet sex beast gets life

A COMPUTER geek from Waltham Abbey who had sex with a 14-year-old girl after grooming her over the internet was given a life sentence this week.

Robert Barwell, 31, of Roundhills, met the girl in an online chat room when she was just 13.

They exchanged mobile phone numbers and Barwell took her on trips to the zoo, ballet and cinema, Blackfriars Crown Court was told.

Barwell, who has resigned from his job working on internet projects at Epping Forest Council, told her that he was not usually interested in young girls but that she was “very special”.

On Valentine’s Day last year, he booked a hotel room where they engaged in sexual activity.

Prosecutor Natasha Tahta said that the relationship got to a stage where the girl felt she could not live without Barwell.

The victim logged into an internet chat room in November 2005 because she was bored. She made it clear she was 13 and female.

Ms Tahta said: “He [Barwell] initially advised her to leave the chat room because she was too young. She offered him her email so they could talk. She found him supportive of her difficulties that she had in her life.

“She became more and more dependent on the relationship she had with him and by Christmas they were exchanging 15 texts a day.

“The emails contained sexually explicit references from extremely early on.”

The girl’s parents became suspicious when Barwell met her at Victoria station and he was arrested by British Transport Police after they followed his car.

He told police that their relationship was more counsellor and patient rather than girlfriend and boyfriend.

But he accepted he had received a photo of her in her underwear and bra.

Ms Tahta said: “He admitted kissing her and touching her. He said she touched his genital area while he was driving in the car.”

Psychiatrists found Barwell had a paedophilic instinct and deliberately groomed the girl for an “unhealthy and perverted relationship”.

Laura Brickman, defending, said Barwell is “a sensitive and highly intelligent man” who “lacks ordinary common sense”.

She continued: “He’s a geek. He’s not physically attractive and initially must have been flattered by the attention of a young girl who was very attractive. There was genuine affection between them.”

Barwell pleaded guilty to the offences of sexual activity with a child and meeting a child following sexual grooming.

He was detained indefinitely and will serve a minimum of three and a half years.

He was also ordered to sign the Sexual Offenders’ Register and was disqualified from working with children for life.

Judge Charles Byers told him on Tuesday: “Let there be no mistake that those who groom children on the internet behave in my view in a manner as badly as someone who prowls the street looking for a victim or loiters outside the school gate waiting for young girls.”