Stevenage paedophile who tried to groom girls in chat rooms jailed for string of sex offences
Steven Stapleton will spend five years in prison and a further four years on licence after attempting to meet two girls having spoken to them in online chat rooms.
The 29-year-old, who used to live Stevenage but has no fixed address, was arrested in August 2013 after trying to arrange to meet a girl under the age of 16 in the town earlier the same month.
Stapleton also admitted unlawful sexual intercourse on another girl under 16 between August 2007 and August 2008.
At his sentencing on Friday, St Albans Crown Court heard how Herts police’s dedicated Child Online Safeguarding Team arrested Stapleton after a concerned member of the public contacted police about a video which had been posted online a few days before.
The video showed Stapleton being confronted by a man who had posed as a child in order to meet with him and expose him for grooming children. Information was also disclosed that Stapleton may have sexually assaulted a girl a few years before.
Officers spoke to the victim and sought the appropriate orders to interrogate chat accounts used by Stapleton to talk to young girls.
Det Sgt Laura Randall has praised officers from the COST team she leads following the sentencing, which also includes two counts of publishing obscene articles which relates to the explicit conversations he had in online chat rooms.
She said: “The tenacity of my officers to gain evidence from internet site providers proved vital in this case. I hope this sentence sends a clear message to other offenders that we will use every tool available to us to bring those committing these appalling crimes to justice.
“Cases involving child sex abuse are extremely serious and have a huge emotional impact not only on the victims, but on whole families, and communities. I would like to reassure you that protecting victims vulnerable to these crimes and bringing offenders to justice is a priority for Hertfordshire Constabulary.
“We also fully understand how difficult it can be for a victim to seek help but I would encourage anyone who has been subject to abuse to please contact police. Your case will be treated with sensitivity and fully investigated.”
If you are a victim of this form of abuse or have any information about those who may be committing these crimes, please call COST via police non-emergency number 101.