Sexual predators often use the internet to target children or young people through social media platforms and chat rooms.
Liverpool’s crown and magistrates’ courts frequently deal with cases where paedophiles have exploited the likes of Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook to prey upon potential victims.
And a recent case even involved a pervert targeting children as young as seven on the online gaming service XBox Live – chatting to boys who were innocently playing Fortnite and Roblox.
Knowing how these kinds of predators operate is something we should all be aware of.
And having conversations with your children about being safe online and reporting anything suspicious that they come across is also vital.
These crimes can have severe and long lasting impacts on victims, who suffer psychological harm.
Meanwhile, initial contact online sometimes leads to even more serious offences being committed in person against a child.
It is often only through a combination of the bravery of these children and determined policing that predators are brought to justice.
To make parents aware of the ways in which predators can target and groom children we have put together a list of some of these men and their despicable crimes.
Matthew Gomez groomed a girl on Snapchat before meeting in woods near her home to sexually abuse her.
The then 20-year-old pretended to be 16 when he targeted two 13-year-old victims on the social media platform.
The paedophile sent the girls disgusting images of himself and asked them to provide him with sexual photos in return.
The now 23-year-old, of Crabtree Close, Netherley, secretly recorded photos of the children on his phone by using an iPad.
He later met up with one girl in Widnes, filmed her on his phone performing a sex act on him, then repeatedly asked for sex.
But when she told him to stop because he was hurting her, Gomez called her a “d***head” and as he walked away, revealed that he had recorded her.
One of the main features of Snapchat is that pictures and messages are usually only available for a short time, before they are automatically deleted.
However, Gomez used an iPad to film and permanently retain indecent photos and videos sent to him on his mobile phone by five separate girls from Merseyside and Cheshire.
Gomez admitted three counts of possessing indecent images of children, featuring girls he had filmed on Snapchat, aged as young as eight.
He denied any other wrongdoing, but was found guilty after a trial of five sexual offences in respect of one 13-year-old girl, and two sexual offences in respect of a second girl, also aged 13.
Gomez, of previous good character, still maintained his innocence in relation to the convictions following the trial.
He was jailed for six and a half years in January this year.
Gomez must sign on the Sex Offenders Register and comply with a SHPO indefinitely.
A paedophile threatened to rape and kidnap a 12-year-old girl on Instagram.
Christopher Wildman, 46, also asked the schoolgirl for pictures of herself and said he wanted her to dress up in costumes.
The victim said at first Wildman was “nice” and “called her babe”.
But he then sent her pictures of half naked girls and said he wanted to “do that sort of thing to her”.
Wildman said he would “like to kidnap her” and said: “I would rape you.”
He told the girl he was 40 and knew she was 12 at the time when he asked her to send him a picture, which she refused to do.
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Wildman also “asked if she had watched porn” and asked her if she had performed sex acts, during messages sent over two to three months, ending in October 2018.
The girl later informed her parents, who contacted police and arrested Wildman.
The pervert, of Windleshaw Road, St Helens, who had no previous convictions, initially denied engaging in sexual communication with a child, but eventually admitted the charge.
He was sentenced last month, when the court heard he had been out of trouble in the more than two years that have passed since.
Wildman was given a nine-month prison, sentence suspended for 18 months, plus a 60-day Rehabilitation Activity Requirement and 60 hours of unpaid work.
He must sign on the Sex Offenders Register and comply with a SHPO for 10 years and an indefinite restraining order preventing him from approaching the school or home of his victim was also imposed.
Kenneth Cunliffe sent videos of himself performing a sex act to a 12-year-old girl via Snapchat.
The 39-year-old believed he was talking to a 15-year-old child, but she was actually even younger.
Cunliffe, of Hawthorne Road, Bootle, bombarded his victim with indecent images and asked for naked pictures in return.
But he later tried to claim he wasn’t “aroused” by the sick conversations – despite earlier confessing to police that he was.
Cunliffe targeted his victim from July to November 2018.
The girl estimated in total he sent between 10 to 15 naked pictures and five disgusting videos of himself.
He also asked if she wanted to meet up, but the girl declined and took a screengrab of his face and told her mum.
Her mum posted the picture on Facebook, leading to his arrest, and he admitted one count of engaging in sexual communication with a child and five counts of engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child.
Cunliffe, of previous good character, was jailed for 18 months last September.
He was told to sign on the Sex Offenders Register and to comply with a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for 10 years.
A pervert who had upskirt pictures of girls in the uniforms told a ’13-year-old’ he wanted to ‘take her top off’.
Anthony Ellis spoke to what he thought were two underage girls on an online chatroom called Chat Avenue.
Among the messages the 60-year-old, from Huyton, said he wanted to treat one ’13-year-old’ like his ‘daur’, meaning daughter.
He also said that he would buy her a cider if she would kiss him and ‘let him feel her legs’.
He spoke to one ‘girl’ between December 18, 2019 and February 5, 2020, while chatting to another between February 3, 2019 and March 12 last year.
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When they raided his home, police found he had 56 “upskirting” images, although the ages of the females in school uniforms couldn’t be determined and officers weren’t able to say whether the photos had been taken with consent or not.
Ellis, of Knowsley Lane, Huyton, who had no previous convictions, admitted two counts of attempting to engage in sexual activity with a child.
Last month at his sentencing a court heard his marriage of 30 years had broken down, he now had difficult relationships with his two adult children, one of whom refused to speak to him, and also lost his job at Liverpool University.
Ellis said he despised what he had done and the Probation Service said it was willing to work with him to address his behaviour.
He was handed a six-month jail sentence, suspended for 18 months, and a 20-day Rehabilitation Activity Requirement.
Ellis was told to sign on the Sex Offenders Register and comply with a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) for seven years.
Adam Syers used the popular children’s video game Fortnite to try to groom boys.
The paedophile previously filmed a toddler and made vile sexual comments before posting the video on Facebook.
The 23-year-old – who recorded the sick clip from the window of his former home in Warrington – walked free from court last September.
But within hours of being spared jail on September 2, 2020, he was back online, trying to snare children playing Fortnite and Roblox on Xbox.
Using the username JuicyGamer, he let a 12-year-old boy spend £200 on his credit card and got the child to send a photo of himself in shorts.
He then targeted a seven-year-old boy, asking him whether he wanted to go on a date with him and be his boyfriend, in a series of sick texts.
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Syers, of Tully Avenue, Newton-le-Willows, also sent vile messages to a third unidentified boy – thought to be under 11 – and had his photo.
He admitted three counts of breaching his SHPO, failing to comply with notification requirements and breaching his suspended sentence.
Two of the mums of the children revealed the impact of his crimes on the youngsters, with one stating how it destroyed her little boy’s innocence.
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Syers has a previous conviction for sexual assault on a child and inciting a child to engage in sexual activity when he was just 14.
The pervert, who the court heard had ADHD, autism, learning and speech difficulties, was jailed for two years and eight months.
He was given a new seven-year SHPO and told to sign on the Sex Offenders Register indefinitely.
Children can contact Childline 24/7 on 0800 1111, and adults concerned about the wellbeing of children can phone the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 8005000.
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