A 28-year-old man has been sentenced to more than 10 years in prison after admitting inciting children to perform sexual acts online.
Mark Hughes, of Windrows, Skelmersdale, was jailed at Preston Crown Court yesterday (Thursday, April 11).
Police executed a warrant at Hughes’ address in September 2018 after information about suspected online sexual communication offences was provided by Merseyside Police.
Hughes was arrested and later released while officers conducted further enquiries.
Following investigation, including inspecting the 28-year-old’s mobile phone and laptop, police found Hughes had been contacting a number of children using the live broadcasting website LiveMe.
He encouraged some of his victims to expose themselves, committing sexualised acts while he covertly recorded the live broadcasts.
Similar offences were found to have been committed on the mobile phone application SnapChat, with Hughes using a recording application to save pictures and videos.
One of his 10 victims – all aged between six and 15 – had learning difficulties, with as many as 60 girls believed to have been contacted online by Hughes.
In January he was re-arrested and charged with a number of offences.
Hughes admitted nine counts of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and six of making indecent images.
He was sentenced to 11 years in prison with an extended three year licence. Hughes was also handed a lifetime Sexual Harm Prevention Order and must sign the sex offenders register.
Det Sgt Claudio Fardella, of Lancashire Police’s Online Child Abuse Investigation Team (OCAIT), said: “Mark Hughes is predatory paedophile who during a three year period offended against children all over the world using chat and live streaming sites.
“Hughes would incite his victims to carry out sexual acts online, recording the live streams to satisfy his own depraved desires.
“He sent sickening messages to a number of children and is believed to have contacted many more.
“This investigation highlights the dangers of these sites which are used by predatory offenders to seek out children to offend against.
“Hughes is clearly a dangerous individual and his sentence reflects the gravity of his actions. I must thank the investigating officers, Det Con Kate Finch and Joshua Gardner, as well as other members of the OCAIT team, for their professionalism in handling a difficult and at times disturbing investigation.
“We would encourage anyone who has been the victim of a sexual offence to come forward and report it to us, safe in the knowledge we take all reports seriously and ensure victims are treated sensitively and professionally at all times.”
Pam Johal for the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Mark Hughes used public chat forums and social media sites under various different usernames to contact over 60 young girls and manipulated some of them into performing degrading acts to camera.
“We worked closely with the police building a strong case which included digital evidence showing that the abuse was live streamed, not just to the defendant but to other like-minded individuals. The police used his own specialised software to trace the victims from the recording he made of the abuse.
“When faced with the overwhelming evidence against him, he was left with no other option than to plead guilty to the offences he faced.
“This case highlights that if children have access to live-streaming, some social media providers, based on the evidence of this case, have the responsibility to do more to help regulate and censor who is contacting them.
“Our thoughts are with the young victims and their families. I hope that as their abuser begins this prison sentence they can begin to move on with their lives.”
For more information about online safety, go to: www.lancashire.police.uk/help-advice/online-safety