September 2015

Child groomer arrested by Surrey Police sentenced to four years in prison

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A child groomer who was quickly arrested by Surrey Police officers after a concerned parent raised the alarm has been jailed for a total of four years and eight months.

An investigation by the Force’s Paedophile Online Investigation Team (POLIT) led to Damian Grove being sentenced at Preston Crown Court on October 2nd.

Grove had pleaded guilty to eight charges relating to online grooming at an earlier court date.

The full breakdown of charges and sentences is as follows:

Causing a child to watch a sexual activity x1 and inciting a child to engage in sexual activity x2 – Sentenced to 20 months per count and each count to run concurrently.

Making an indecent photograph of a child x2 (516 images – Category A 10, Category B 447, Category C 59) and making (producing) an indecent photograph of a child x1 (519 images – Category A 9, category B 439, Category C 71) – Sentenced to 16 months for each offence to run concurrently with each other but consecutively of the three counts above.

Distributing an indecent image of children x1 and conspiracy to distribute indecent images of children x1 – Sentenced to 16 months to run concurrently.

Voyeurism – Sentenced to four months to be served consecutively.

Officers swiftly arrested Grove at Thorpe Park in Chertsey on March 16th 2013 following a call from a suspicious mother.

She had seen a photo of her son on Facebook at the theme park with Grove, who she did not know, and raised the alarm.
46 year old Grove, of Central Drive, Blackpool was tracked down while still in the park and arrested.

His car was searched and a mobile phone and laptop were recovered and examined, which revealed the full extent of his online offending.

The investigation confirmed that there were no offences established in respect of the two boys met by Grove at Thorpe Park.

It was discovered he had been using the internet chat programme Skype to communicate with boys as young as 11 while pretending to be a teenage girl.

During those conversations he incited them to engage in sexual activity which he recorded, using freely available software and shared with other online users.

He also conspired with others online and shared ideas about how to target youngsters and what software to use.

Having been arrested he continued to maintain contact with one of his victims online.

Officers found in excess of 350 recordings showing young boys, which all related to the use of the recording software, however, only a very small number had sufficient information in them to assist in identifying the victims.

Most of the victims had been recorded on one or two separate occasions. Officers were able to establish there had been contact with at least 10 victims, to which the charges relate.

Grove was also sentenced for a voyeurism offence investigated by Lancashire Police. The offence related to Grove filming a 13 year old boy in a toilet cubicle at a swimming pool on November 23rd 2013.

Case study one – a teenage boy and his mum from the Lancashire area:

The victim said: “I thought it was something that happened to other people, not me. I thought it was something you see on the news – it was such a shock.

“It has made me completely more aware of being safe on the internet. It did really embarrass me when I found out, I was completed shocked by it. I thought the person I was talking to was someone else. I ended up realising how much of an idiot I was, I’ve had time to think about it since then.

“You don’t ever really know who is behind the screen, all you know is the name, but you don’t have a clue who it is. You need to make sure you know who it is and don’t get embarrassed like I did.”

His mother added: “When the police told me I was obviously upset. What would have happened if they hadn’t found this man, would someone have gone and met him? I did feel relieved though that they had got him.

“I was very naïve about using the internet. I didn’t put any parental controls on my children. I did say to them that if they were on Facebook I needed to have their passwords.

“I very rarely checked up on them though and some people I know were friends with them so I thought they would be okay.

“I did used to say to them that people can pretend to be somebody else. You hear it on the news, but they would say, ‘yeah, okay, okay’.

“I would make a point of highlighting this issue when it comes up in the news and let the children know that it does happen and can happen. You have to do it, not to scare your kids, but to keep it fresh in their minds.

“I do have a younger daughter and my son is very protective over her now. He was very embarrassed about it because he knew he had been so stupid and because they had this video of him which would have been very embarrassing if it had fallen into the wrong hands.

“It’s fantastic that the mother reported it to the police. Who knows what could have happened if she hadn’t intervened?”

Case study two – a mother of a victim from the Liverpool area:

“We always check what they are doing on their computers as much as we can do. We have always thought of ourselves as being vigilant parents, especially when it comes to social media.

“Before it happened we monitored both of their Facebook accounts – that was one of the conditions of them having the computers. Everything seemed to be fine, there were never any issues.

“He was really brave in coming to speak to us. I asked him what was wrong and he said he’d been really stupid. You think ‘my God what’s happened, what has he done?’

“He said he’d been talking to this 14-year-old girl on the internet in this chat room and she was asking him to do odd things. He stopped at a certain point because she began talking as if she would blackmail him by putting videos of him on YouTube and Facebook.

“Our son was in a terrible state about it all. It didn’t even enter my head that it was a paedophile. I just thought he was talking to a girl who was being a bit of a bully and being horrible.

“We all make silly mistakes and that’s what we put it down to. We forgot about it and put it behind us.

“We did put more privacy settings and security on the laptop after that though. I started using it for some of my work, so I was able to keep an even closer eye on what he was up to after that and he honestly never went near anything like that again.

“Those first few days were really hard because he didn’t know what to do. We needed to keep an eye on him because we didn’t know how it was going to affect him, and what was going on in his head?

“I’m so grateful to the mum who spotted those pictures on Facebook of her son at Thorpe Park. She had the initiative and instinct to see what was happening. If it wasn’t for her none of this would have come out. I couldn’t thank her enough for what she’s done. It’s uncovered so much.

“When it happened to our son I didn’t have that instinct, I didn’t have a clue it was a bloke. We just put it down to a bad experience.

“You hear about this happening all the time, but you don’t think it’s going to happen to your family.

“It has had such an impact on all areas of our life. The weekend after we found out we were due to go to Blackpool for an event our daughter was in, but she didn’t want to go. She was petrified that this man was going to get her. We had to tell her that he wasn’t going to be anywhere near her.”

Case study three – a mother of a victim from the Lancashire area:

“When the police first told me I burst out crying. I have always told my son to be careful who he talks to. I’ve always been more worried about my younger daughter than him, because you hear about it happening to young girls, but not boys. I never thought that anything like this would happen.

“I cannot imagine what would have happened if he had gone to meet him. The thought that he would go and meet a young girl and it turn out to be a man really scares me.

“I never thought he would have got duped. He’s always been a really good kid, and responsible. He’s never been in trouble.

“Fortunately he hasn’t been affected by it, but some boys would be really upset by this. He’s managed to put me at ease and he tells me not to worry about it.

“I want as many people like this man off the streets as possible. You should be able to trust your kids and let them explore without horrible people taking advantage of them.”