A Sussex Police investigation has culminated in a 13-year sentence for a young man originally from Eastbourne. The man committed various sex offences involving young girls, one was only eight years old. He is also charged with the possession and use of various indecent images, including some that involve the girls he was in contact with.
The man charged is Ryan Croft, 23-years-old, of Rye, Eastbourne. He was sentenced on Friday 2nd March at Brighton Crown Court, after pleading guilty to all 18 offences at a hearing on 15th January.
Croft confessed to:
– seven counts of causing and inciting seven girls aged between eight and 13 to engage in sexual activity;
– two counts of causing and inciting two other girls, aged between 13 and 15, to engage in sexual activity;
– three counts of downloading indecent images of children – 72 at Category A, the most serious, 137 at Category B, and 1008 at Category C;
– three counts of possessing indecent images with a view to distribution – seven at Category A, seven at Category B, and 88 at Category C;
– three counts of possession of extreme pornography, consisting of a video depicting bestiality and two videos portraying a depiction of rape.
He has been sentenced to eight years in custody and then a further five on extended prison release licence supervision. Additionally, Croft will be a registered sex offender for life, and has received a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) to last until further court order. This order drastically restricts his access to both computers and young people.
The investigation that led to the trial was directed by officers from the Sussex Police Complex Abuse Unit. These officers were alerted by Lancashire Police about Croft’s contact with one of the girls who was aged eight.
Detective Constable Chris Smith said: “Croft contacted girls in some cases as himself but he also pretended online to be a girl in her late teens who was a model. He befriended over 2000 young girls via Facebook, most in their early teens. Some had sent indecent images of themselves.
“Of the nine victims he was charged with, four were from the Eastbourne area and five were elsewhere in the UK. Some girls were unidentified and it is also known he contacted girls abroad, as far as the United States and South East Asia.
“He engaged in messaging and Skype to incite them into increasingly sexually explicit exchanges, including indecent acts and exchange of images.
“This was a very complex case in which we had to gain the confidence of vulnerable young girls and their families, all of whom supported the prosecution and were ready to give evidence if needed.
“It is another worrying reminder that young people can be as vulnerable to sexual exploitation online as they can be in direct encounters.
“We do ask all young people and their families to exercise care and caution in online contact. What starts off as an innocent encounter can quickly develop into something much more sinister.
“There is good advice available – see for example the website of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre – CEOP
“And if you have concerns that a young person you know is being exploited in this or any other way, get in touch with us. In Sussex you can do that online or by calling us on 101 and arranging to talk in confidence to experienced investigators, who can also help arrange access to further sources of support and advice.