School technician groomed underage girl swapping 18,000 messages and sexually explicit pictures.
January 31, 2017
A school technician groomed a girl using fake Facebook profiles, swapping 18,000 messages and explicit pictures with her
A school technician swapped more than 18,000 messages, naked pictures and explicit videos from fake Facebook accounts with an underage pupil in what has been described by a judge as “one of the worst cases of grooming” he’d ever seen.
Matthew Ian Townsend, 44, from Penzance, who also ran magic lessons for children, was discovered after a pupil saw him kissing a 14-year-old girl at a school in west Cornwall.
Townsend, of Millfield, Gulval, pleaded guilty to inciting a girl aged under 16 to perform sexual acts, two charges of intentionally sexually touching the girl, performing a sex act in front of the girl and possessing 240 indecent pictures and 16 videos of a child.
Prosecutor Ramsay Quaife told a judge at Truro Crown Court that the school technician had set up false Facebook accounts for him and the girl and messages started to be sent and those messages were sexual in nature. Those messages soon became pictures and videos.
“If she didn’t send a message, he would not talk to her and she did not like that,” he said. “He was even able to buy her clothing that he asked her to wear during these photographs and videos.”
Mr Quaife said the pair sent each other around 500 sexually explicit pictures. He said that after Townsend’s arrest, the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told police that the pair had initially just been friends.
Defence barrister Steve Molloy said: “Mr Townsend is a broken man. He is a family man with two small children. The background in no way excuses what he’s done, but he is one of the hidden victims of male domestic violence.
“What happened on this occasion is that he became friendly with the victim. This was someone he believed he had a connection with, although she was a schoolgirl. I would suggest he is not someone who is habitually attracted to teenagers.
“The defendant was not in his right mind at the time and has been greatly affected by the devastating effect on the girl.”
He added that the Probation Service judged Townsend’s risk of reoffending to be low and said his client had vowed to move away from Cornwall.
Addressing the defendant, Judge Simon Carr said: “This is one of the worst cases of grooming I have seen. Quite deliberately, over a period of time, you continued to raise the expectations of this young girl and got her to do increasingly more extreme sexual acts for your enjoyment.
“You continually pushed her to go further than she did before. This included masturbating in front of the screen and wearing inappropriate clothing that you bought for her.
“The pressure that you brought to bear on her was immense. The sheer number of messages shows that, let along their contents. At the time you were in your early 40s, about 30 years older. You were in a position of immense responsibility and trust.
“The effect on her has been totally devastating. The suggestion that she did not see it as serious is something I utterly reject. She has suffered from depression and has on occasions considered taking her own life.
He sentenced Townsend to four years in prison for inciting a girl aged under 16 to perform sexual acts. For the other offences, Townsend was sentenced to three terms of eight months in prison to run concurrently.
Townsend will remain on the Sex Offenders’ Register for life and sexual harm order, to run indefinitely, was also made by the court.
This means Townsend must allow police access to his internet history and computer passwords on request, and not live or stay in a premises where someone is aged under 16, unless authorised by the Family Court or Social Services.