One of the UK’s youngest-ever female paedophiles has been jailed for sexually abusing children as young as two years old.
Sophie Elms, of Royal Wootton Bassett, was 17 when she committed offences including sexual assault of a child, distributing indecent images of children and possessing extreme pornographic images of an animal.
Elms was on a placement at a local nursery as part of a course in child care at the time, but police said the crimes did not take place at the nursery or college.
She was jailed for seven years and 10 months at Swindon Crown Court on Monday, after pleading guilty to physically abusing two victims aged two and three.
Elms also shared indecent images of a different two-year-old girl and two other children.
Judge Jason Taylor QC said Elms targeted the victims in a “deliberate and calculated manner” after being charged with looking after them.
He said the girls’ parents had been “completely destroyed”, adding: “They are broken people and you are the one that broke them. They will never fully recover. And they understandably fear for their daughters’ future... only time will tell what psychological damage you have inflicted.”
The judge said Elms photographed and filmed the abuse, with footage showing one of the victims “screaming in distress”, and sent it to two men.
One of the images was used by another man in the grooming and abuse of a different victim, the court heard.
Elms had undergone safeguarding training as part of her college course, and used “sustained and extensive” planning to gain access to children, the judge said.
He called Elms a “vulnerable young girl with a troubled and sad history”, after the court heard evidence that she had herself been an “easy target” for online abusers because of limited academic ability and low self-worth.
The judge said Elms had been exploited by a male sex offender who incited her to abuse the children, and then send him photos.
“He bears responsibility and he has been sentenced for his part,” Judge Taylor added.
“But to lay all the responsibility at his door would be misleading and, in my judgement, wrong... you wanted to please a man towards whom you felt affection.”
He told Elms that the starting point for her jail sentence had been halved because of her age and background, and said she would receive specialist treatment.
Elms will be monitored after her release from prison, barred from working with children and put under a Sexual Harm Prevention Order.
Detective Inspector Simon Childe, of Wiltshire Police, said the case had shocked the local community.
“Elms is just 18 years old, making her one of the youngest women in the country to be convicted of these types of offences, and at the time of committing these atrocious crimes, she was studying child care with a long term aim of working with very young children in the future,” he added.
“I am extremely grateful to my team of dedicated officers who have been able to intercept and prevent her from working with children ever again.”
Detective Inspector Childe said the victims’ families had shown “great strength” through the legal process and were being given specialist support.
He added: “I hope that in this case, the families of the young victims can take some closure from the sentencing and feel supported in moving forward.”