Jail for pair of predatory sex offenders

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Two "predatory" sex offenders who abused young boys were given lengthy jail sentences today, police said.

David Keen, 29, from Bognor, West Sussex, groomed children from a young age, plying them with gifts and alcohol to subdue them so he could sexually abuse them.

Hove Crown Court heard he met co-defendant John Churchley, 59, on an online dating website and offered the boys to him for a fee.

Keen also travelled to Australia with money he had made through Churchley. There he abused a 13-year-old boy.

He met many of his victims in the UK by looking after his neighbours' children, often babysitting them from when they were as young as eight.

His grooming would often begin at this early age and as the boys grew to trust him more, his levels of offending would increase and he would look to befriend their friends and younger siblings, the court heard.

Such was his plausibility that he was often welcomed into the homes of his victims and their families.

Both men were found to be in possession of thousands of indecent images of children, a spokeswoman for Sussex Police said.

She added that the investigation into the pair had been one of the most complex child sex offences cases the force had dealt with.

Keen was given an indeterminate sentence to serve at least 14 years after pleading guilty to 28 offences, including possessing, making and distributing indecent images of children, sexual activity with a child under 16, and conspiracy to commit such offences. He was found in possession of more than 5,000 indecent images of children.

Churchley, from Littlehampton, was jailed for eight years after pleading guilty to 15 offences and was found in possession of more than 42,000 indecent images of children.

Both men will be on the sex offenders' register for life.

Churchley was arrested as a result of an investigation into suspected child sex offenders identified in Operation Algebra, an intelligence gathering and enforcement operation by Lothian and Borders Police. The investigation into Churchley led detectives to his contact with Keen.

Detectives have sought to identify children who were in contact with the pair, and offered support through working with social services, education and other agencies.

Detective Inspector Jeff Riley, of Sussex Police's major crime branch, said: "This was a difficult and painstaking inquiry for my team, who worked closely with the young men involved and their families, who have been very courageous in providing their evidence against these two men under incredibly difficult circumstances.

"We are working with a number of partner agencies to support the children, most of whom are known to each other, as well as their families.

"David Keen and John Churchley are predatory sex offenders. Keen, in particular, formed relationships with boys from a very early age.

"Today at Hove Crown Court both Keen and Churchley have rightly been described as dangerous.

"I hope that this sentence will allow the victims and their families to now put this dreadful episode of their life behind them and start to look to the future."