Holywell sex offender caught out by decoy children during sexual chats
A convicted sex offender from Flintshire has been put behind bars after being duped by ‘decoy children.’
Steven Benjamin Jones, of High Street in Holywell, appeared brought before Mold Crown Court via a video link from HMP Berwyn.
Jones admitted 16 counts of sexual offences – namely that he attempted to communicate with a child in a sexual manner and attempted to have young girls engage in sexual activity.
He was also found to have been distributing and obtaining indecent images of children.
This amounted to a breach of a previously imposed sexual harm prevention order [SHPO] issued by the courts.
At a hearing on April 1, the prosecution, Brian Treadwell, told the court how Jones, 37, was convicted by Mold Crown Court in 2018 for similar sexual offences. This led to him being branded with a SHPO and spending 14 months in prison.
Mr Treadwell said after Jones’ release and during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, Jones is said to have been approached by a ‘vigilante group’ posing as a child to catch him out as a predator.
The court was told that a profile on a social media application under the pseudonym ‘Tegan’ began messaging Jones and made it clear she was just nine years old.
The conversations started on May 10 with Jones using a fake name and profile picture. He lied about his age, claiming to be 30 and the ‘child’ clarified her age once more and asked if she was ‘too young for him’.
Mr Treadwell said that, to this, Jones replied that her age was ‘perfect’.
Jones asked ‘Tegan’ to keep all their conversations a secret and asked her to send him pictures of her. Jones also sent indecent images of his genitals to what he believed was a child.
He went on to also share videos of pre-teen children involved in sexual videos and asked if ‘Tegan’ liked this.
Another decoy child – reporting to be a 14-year-old girl – was contacted by Jones using the same profile he interacted with ‘Tegan’ through.
The court heard how Jones quickly turned his conversations with this ‘child’ sexual.
He is said to have demanded naked pictures of the girl, and also enquired if she had any younger siblings he could speak with too. After learning from the decoy of a 10-year-old sister, Jones outlined sexual fantasies involving both imaginary girls in detail.
Both ‘girls’ were actually members of a vigilante group exposing predatory behaviour online and gave the messages, images and videos he sent them to North Wales Police for investigation.
Jones was arrested on May 20 at his workplace.
In interview, he admitted to all offences and confessed to having a secret iPhone for several months that he did not inform the police about which went against the terms of his SHPO.
The mobile phone was seized by police and found to contain dozens of indecent images and videos of female children.
Mr Treadwell says that there were 82 in total with the children starting from as old as 16 and the youngest believed to be around three- years -old.
A dive into his internet search history also revealed that he had been looking for images and videos related to child abuse.
This search also revealed he was involved in sharing images of children to others.
Jones was interviewed for a second time by police on October 16 – around five months after his initial arrest where he maintained his guilty admissions and was released on bail with conditions.
However, Jones is said to have made further contact with a decoy child between December 7 and 15.
On another social media platform, an undercover officer posing as a 13-year-old girl reached out to Jones who was using a fake name again.
The decoy – using the name ‘Amy’ – received sexually explicit messages from Jones and made demand for pictures of her body.
Jones was caught after ‘Amy’ was revealed to be an undercover police officer who was able to identify this as Jones by the phone number that was shared on the platform matching their records.
Police arrested Jones again and sized his mobile phone. The application where he approached ‘Amy’ was found on the device along with message chains.
Passing an overall prison sentence of four years, Judge Nicola Jones said she hoped that Jones was serious about his desire to ‘turn his life around’.
She said: “Your offending is clearly escalating and its extremely concerning to us. You have now gone to distributing disturbing images of child abuse to what you thought was a child herself.
“You knew what you were doing was wrong – you asked them to keep the conversations a secret.
“These attempts to engage in sexual activity with children are very serious. Thankfully, these were not real children.”
She added her disbelief that Jones would go through with this activity whilst on bail for committing previous offences of a similar nature.
Judge Jones created a new SHPO that indefinitely banned the 37-year-old from having contact with girls under the age of 16.
She also ordered that all of his devices that were sized containing indecent images should now be destroyed.