JAILED: 'Sexual deviant' groomed teenage girls on social media

Luke Atkinson. Picture issued by Nottinghamshire Police.
Luke Atkinson. Picture issued by Nottinghamshire Police.

A Nottinghamshire man who used social media to groom teenage girls has been jailed for four years and eight months.

Luke Atkinson, 29, pleaded guilty to offences including inciting sexual activity with a child and possessing indecent images of children.

Nottingham Crown Court heard that Atkinson incited girls as young as 13 to send him graphic images and videos of themselves after contacting them via social media platforms.

When they decided they didn't want to send him any more pictures of themselves, Atkinson threatened and blackmailed them, saying he would post pictures they had sent him online unless they did so.

Nottinghamshire Police launched an investigation after receiving information from Durham Constabulary in April 2015 that it had received a report from the mother of a 14-year-old girl who had been contacted by a person on Facebook and had made inappropriate sexualised comments to her daughter.

Enquiries were commenced and the suspect was identified as Atkinson, of Exchange Street, Retford.

When officers arrested him at his home in September 2015 on suspicion of inciting a child into sexual activity, Atkinson was also found to be in possession of cannabis which he was also arrested for and later admitted to.

After a detailed examination of Atkinson's mobile phone, a number of other girls he had also incited sexual activity with were identified and in June 2016 he was additionally arrested for further offences.

Five girls, aged 13 to 16, bravely came forward to give evidence against Atkinson.

Two of the victims were from the Doncaster area with the others from the Leeds, Gainsborough and Rotherham areas.

The court heard that the victims made it clear to Atkinson how old they were when communicating with him on social media.

One of the girls, aged 13 when she was initially contacted by Atkinson, told officers at interview that her 'heart sank' whenever he made contact with her.

She feared he would never go away as every time she had tried to get away from him he would come back again via a different social media platform.

Another victim, aged 15 at the time, said at interview that the only reason she sent graphic videos of herself to Atkinson was because he was blackmailing her saying he would post pictures of her on Facebook if she didn't.

She said this made her feel sick and disgusted in herself.

Atkinson, who was sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court on Monday, was also made subject of a sexual harm prevention order, a restraining order not to contact the victims and ordered to sign the Sex Offenders' Register for life.

Speaking after his sentencing, Detective Constable Richard Hewitt, of Nottinghamshire Police, said: "The girls who were subject of Atkinson’s offending were so brave to come forward and speak out, giving some very upsetting interviews about their traumatic experiences.

"They showed great courage in keeping it together during a lengthy court process and that’s great credit to them.

"Atkinson is a loathsome individual who threatened his victims into adhering to his demands.

"His actions were nothing short of disgusting but thankfully this sexual deviant is now behind bars."

An NSPCC spokesman said: "Atkinson believed he could get away with exploiting children but has rightly been brought to justice.

"We hope the girls who bravely came forward to the police now receive the necessary help and support to overcome what has happened to them.

"Atkinson's behaviour is another example of how groomers use social media to prey on children so it is vital parents and carers talk to their children about staying safe online."

Advice is available at www.net-aware.org.uk or through the NSPCC and O2's online safety helpline on 0808 8005002.