Internet pedophile had an online relationship with a teenager

Facebook helped police track down an Exmouth pedophile who was uploading child sex abuse images.

The internet giant reported suspicious activity on the account of Neil Rhodes and Devon and Cornwall Police arrested him.

They seized his computers and found he was searching the internet for depraved videos and images showing the sexual abuse of girls, some as young as three years old.

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They also discovered an online chat relationship he had with a teenage girl in which he persuaded her to send him nude pictures of herself.

Exeter Crown Court heard the girl broke off contact when she discovered he had lied to her and was in a stable relationship with a woman her own age.

The 34-year-old, from Chamberlain Road, was spared jail time and given a 12-month suspended prison sentence for two offences.

He admitted taking indecent photos of children and having sex with a child.

The prosecutor, Mr Garth Richardson, said Facebook had referred indecent images of children on the internet to the police which could be traced to the defendant’s IP address.

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Police raided his home on April 30, 2019 and seized several devices. Indecent images were found on a number of machines. They included rape and child abuse by adults in the most serious category.

The age range of the child victims was between 3 and 15 years old.

Analysis of search terms used on the devices showed that Rhodes had a sexual interest in children. A photo album on his phone had been disguised as a calculator app.

The messages showed that Rhodes had been in communication with a girl since she was 14. They had never met but used Snapchat, WhatsApp, Facetime and texts to keep in touch until he was 19.

They shared sexual images of each other.

The girl said in a statement that he would ask her for sexual images and videos in every conversation. She considered the couple to be in a relationship and said she was not forced into anything.

But she had been vulnerable when he first contacted her. He had seemed caring but she realized in the end that “all he wanted was sex photos and videos”.

Mr Warren Robinson, by way of mitigation, said the breaches happened some time ago and that Rhodes had referred himself to organizations that could help him understand his behavior.

Judge Timothy Rose said his actions had been “deeply disturbing”, but he admitted Rhodes now understood that and was sorry.

“It took place over a period of three years and during the same period you started some form of online relationship with a real person you knew,” Judge said.

“You were twice his age and you should never have done this in the first place.”

Rhodes was imprisoned for 12 months, suspended for two years. He must sign the sex offender register for 10 years and was subject to a sexual abuse prevention order restricting his internet use during the same period.

He must follow the Horizon program for sex offenders for 40 days and 30 days of rehabilitation with probation.

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