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Paedophile jailed after blackmailing teen into raping his own 12-month-old niece

04 Sep 2017 17:00 PM

Paul Leighton [View Full Size]

A sick paedophile has been jailed after he posed as children to encourage teenagers to send him nude pictures - so he could blackmail them into abusing children as young as TWELVE-MONTHS-OLD.

Last September Paul Leighton, 32, was working in Sunderland when his phone was flagged up to national authorities as holding a number of indecent images.

Northumbria Police took on the investigation and specialist trained detectives in the specialist Paedophile Online Investigation Team (POLIT) began to analyse and trace the user of those profiles.

Leighton was arrested and his phone was seized by officers - at which point the depths of his offences were uncovered.

Detectives found that Leighton had been befriending school children online and asking them to send him nude photos.

He would then use the nude photos to blackmail the children in to committing sexual offences against other children, often younger siblings, or on themselves.

Leighton threatened to reveal the nude pictures to their families and friends if they did not comply, leading to the children carrying out the horrific abuse on camera, which Leighton kept stored on his mobile phone.

On one occasion Leighton blackmailed a 14 year-old from Florida to commit a series of rapes against his 12-month-old niece.

Another time he forced a boy in his late teens to sexually abuse his 13-year-old sister at their home in the US.

Leighton also blackmailed a 14-year-old girl, again from America, to perform sexual acts on her 13-year-old brother on camera.

On other occasions he forced teenagers to masturbate on camera and perform sex acts on other younger siblings.

It was also found that Leighton asked one of his victims to go and find young children on the street when their young relative was not around.

He would then share the sick videos with other children he had befriended on social media to obtain more material. It later emerged that all of Leighton's offending was committed through his mobile phone.

Detectives at Northumbria Police have worked for a year to get to the bottom of the offences and have worked closely with authorities at the US Homeland Security Investigations based in London.

As a result they were able to charge Leighton with 21 offences - including three charges of rape relating to a child in the States.

Leighton, of Seaham, pleaded guilty to the charges against him and was jailed for 16 years at Newcastle Crown Court today (Mon). 

 

He was told he would serve a further six years on licence and was handed a Sexual Offences Prevention Order with a string of conditions stopping him from contacting children.

 

The officer in charge of the case, PC Andrea Atkinson, was also commended for her work in bringing Leighton to justice.

Detective Sergeant Peter Morgan, part of the team who investigated Leighton, said the case was the worst they have ever come across in their career.

He said: "Paul Leighton is one of the most serious offenders I have ever come across and his actions have had devastating impacts across the world.

"He has victims in this country, America, Canada, and Australia and there may be dozens more who have not yet reported abuse to the authorities.

"His offending has had a lasting impact on all the officers on the investigative team but from the minute Leighton was arrested he has shown no remorse for his actions.

"He was calculated and sophisticated in his approach to this abuse and his lack of thought for his victims is spine-chilling.

"Hundreds of families will never recover from the trauma of these offences and will have to live with what he has done to them for the rest of their lives.

"As for Leighton, he will spend a substantial part  of his life behind bars where he cannot hurt anyone else - that is thanks to the hard work of our detectives.

"This case proves that we will work with law enforcement from across the globe to pursue abusers like Paul Leighton wherever they are and whoever they offend against."

Superintendent Mick Barton, digital forensics lead at Northumbria Police, said the case was a "chilling reminder" of the dangers posed by children talking to strangers online.

He said: "We all know that the internet can be a dangerous environment for young people but this case shows just how dangerous it can be.

"Young people do not understand just what can happen when they speak to strangers online or send indecent images of themselves over the internet.

"We regularly go into schools to try to educate children about cyber-crime, online grooming and the pitfalls of sexting. This case shows why that is so important.

"Parents need to be challenging their children about what they are doing online and warning them about what exactly can happen when they speak to strangers or share indecent images.

"Unfortunately we will live in a world where sick, vile creatures like Paul Leighton take advantage of young children using the internet.

"He committed these offences on a mobile phone and used the cover of fake social media profiles to carry out abuse that many of us could not even comprehend.

"If you find yourself in trouble then speak to police straight away and let us help you. Nobody should feel pressured into doing something they feel uncomfortable with online.

"Our detectives will continue to dedicate their lives to taking these kind of people off the street. Call us and we will believe you."

James R. Mancuso, attaché for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in London said: "Protecting children from exploitation is one of the most important missions we have, and as this case demonstrates, it takes the collaboration of law enforcement agencies around the world to tackle this crime.

"HSI is committed to working with partners like the Northumbria Police to arrest individuals who commit such heinous acts and ensure that they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law"

As part of the sentencing hearing, the court also heard statements from the mothers of two young girls abused by individuals blackmailed by Leighton.

A mother of a 16-year-old victim said: "She is very angry and anxious, she is terrified that he is going to come and get her. It breaks my heart that she feels that way, and I am at a loss how to cope with this."

"It angers me that she and our family have had to go through this and never ever thought that something like this would happen to us.  The stress and anguish is never ending."

Another mother of a 14-year-old girl said: "She has lost a lot of confidence. It is very rare that you get a laugh or smile out of her.  It is hard to watch."

Leighton pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to three counts of rape, two sexual assaults on girls under 13, four counts of causing or inciting grooming, three counts of making and two counts of distributing indecent photographs, three counts of blackmail, one count of assault on a girl under 13, and one count of possessing a class B drug.

Anyone who feels like they have been a victim of a cyber-crime, or feels that they may have been groomed online, can contact police on 101 or Victims First Northumbria on 0800 011 3116.

Crime prevention advice about keeping safe online can be found on https://www.getsafeonline.org/

ENDS