A male who posed as a 16-year-old girl in order to get teenage boys to send naked images and videos of themselves via Facebook had his sentence deferred for six months after appearing in court.
The defendant, who was 17 at the time, managed to hoodwink around 50 teenage boys into sending images of themselves to who they believed was a girl called Sarah-Louise.
A court order has been imposed, under the defendant’s human rights, banning any details which could lead to his identity being published.
The accused, who is now 21, admitted a total of 18 offences which were carried out when he was a legally a child over a period spanning from 2011 and 2012.
He admitted multiple charges of inciting a child to engage in a sexual act, as well as possessing indecent images of children, distributing an indecent photograph of a child and possessing an extreme pornographic image.
The man, who was released from custody last December for separate sexual offences, is currently on licence and is working with probation to address his behaviour.
Deferring sentence until November 5 to allow this work to continue, Judge Paul Ramsey QC said he wanted the defendant to continue working on “risk-reducing changes”.
At a previous hearing, Crown prosecutor Kate McKay said that on March 12, 2012, a report was made to police regarding a young male who had been contacted on Facebook by a 16-year-old girl called Sarah-Louise.
Sarah-Louise – who it turned out was the defendant posing as a girl – had asked the teenage male in question to send ‘her’ naked pictures of himself.
The schoolboys were aged between 12 and 15, while the defendant was 17.
An investigation was launched, when it emerged that scores of other young local schoolboys has also been contacted by Sarah-Louise.
The fake profile of the teenage girl was traced back to the defendant and on March 16, 2012 his Belfast home was searched.
A large number of items, including his iPad, were seized and examined and a number of indecent images of children were found.
Among the images found were pictures and videos sent by the schoolboys to ‘Sarah-Louise’, and also an image of the ‘Sarah-Louise’ persona which was sent to the unwitting boys.
Also located on the accused’s iPad were web-chat conversations, which displayed evidence of inciting children to engage in sex acts.
When arrested, the defendant was interviewed four times and refused to speak. He also initially refused to give passwords for email accounts.
It also emerged during interview that he was on bail for a number of similar offences, and had breached his bail conditions as he shouldn’t have been using the internet.
When he was questioned again in August 2012, the defendant was presented with evidence from his iPad which included conversations.
At this stage, he admitted he had posed as Sarah-Louise in order to contact the schoolboys.
He also told police that he was confused about his sexuality.
Defence barrister John McCrudden pointed out the offences were committed when the defendant “was legally a child himself”.
Pointing out the delay in the case, Mr McCrudden said the person in the dock now was very different from the person he was back in 2011/12, when he led an isolated existence.
The barrister also said that since being released from prison last year, his client has not had any access to the internet or social media and has been engaging with probation.