Indecent images man a 'parent's worst nightmare'

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A judge branded a man a "parent's worst nightmare" today as he jailed him for two-and-a-half years for making indecent images of children he met through internet chat sites aimed at teenagers.

Police found that Nicholas Bennett, 31, of Herbert Road, Swanley, Kent, had claimed to be aged just 15 on at least one occasion when talking to girls who had told him they were under 16.

He was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court today after pleading guilty to 10 sexual offences at an earlier hearing, a spokeswoman for Kent Police said.

Bennett's victims were all aged between 11 and 16, with one living as far away as Sydney, Australia.

He was arrested last year after a woman told police he had been trying to blackmail her by threatening to post images on the internet that she had sent him as a child if she refused to engage in further roleplay with him.

Officers from the force's public protection crime unit then executed a search warrant at his home and arrested him on suspicion of possession of indecent images of children.

On his computer equipment they also found records of chat logs showing a number of internet conversations he had had with children, along with evidence of him having posed as a 15-year-old boy by supplying bogus images of himself.

When questioned, Bennett told officers he had been speaking with teenagers but denied any of his internet chat was with children. Police believe Bennett made contact with the young girls through a teen chat website and it is suspected he used information found on social networking sites about the teenagers he spoke to in order to befriend them.

Detective Constable Mikaela Stevens, who led the investigation, said: "Bennett has denied any wrongdoing throughout his interviews but the evidence presented in court shows the extent of planning he would undertake in order to commit these crimes.

"I would like to thank the young woman who made the initial report to police for coming forward and speaking with officers.

"Her courage and co-operation with officers was vital in bringing this offender before the courts and in identifying other children he had abused and also preventing further children from coming into contact with him in the future."

Bennett pleaded guilty to five offences of causing or inciting pornography, four counts of making indecent images of children and one count of causing or inciting sexual activity with a child.

The images included two level four images, on a scale of one to five with five being the most serious, and two level three images.

Judge Philip Statman also gave him a 10-year sex offences prevention order while he must sign the sex offenders register for life.

Detective Inspector Matthew Long, from the public protection unit, added: "Kent Police remains determined to seek out those individuals who abuse children and are engaged in child abuse image offences. We are committed to identifying offenders and bringing them before the courts.

"This investigation highlights the importance of not sending information or images to people you do not know.

"The young girls involved in this investigation had open profiles on social networking sites allowing anyone access to private and confidential information.

"Bennett abused that knowledge which led to this catalogue of abuse bringing him before the courts today."