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A man has been jailed for online child sex offences perpetrated against children in the UK and the USA.
Between 2015 and 2018, Hampshire Constabulary’s Internet Child Abuse Team (ICAT) received information from a number of agencies – including the FBI in America – in relation to email addresses and online usernames being used by an offender to speak to young girls over an online chat site and on social media platforms.
The user, identified by police as 35-year-old Joshua Pelling of Avenue Road in Sandown, had been inciting the children to engage in sexual acts and blackmailed them into sending him further images of themselves committing these acts.
Pelling would threaten the children by telling them he would share their pictures with their close friends or family if they did not provide him with more images at his request.
The child victims in this case lived across the UK, including Dorset, Lancashire, and Humberside, as well as in the US, with the youngest victim being just 10-years-old.
One of the victims was threatened into sending more than 300 pictures and between 30 and 40 videos of herself.
In a bid to mask his offending, Pelling hacked into his neighbour’s WiFi router and accessed their internet in order to contact one of his victims, which resulted in the innocent neighbour being arrested instead of Pelling.
Extensive enquiries soon identified Pelling as the perpetrator and he was subsequently arrested.
He initially denied any involvement in the abuse, but came clean after the overwhelming evidence was put to him and he was charged with 21 offences.
Appearing at Isle of Wight Crown Court on 31 October 2022, he pleaded guilty to 3 counts of making indecent images of children, 5 counts of taking indecent images of children, 6 counts of engaging in sexual communication with a child, 3 counts of causing or inciting a girl under 13 to engage in sexual activity, and 4 counts of causing or inciting a girl aged 13-15 to engage in sexual activity.
At a hearing on 20 December, he also pleaded guilty to further charges of breaching a Sexual Risk Order, as well as possessing cannabis with intent to supply.
This follows a visit by police to his address on 18 December after receiving information about drug use at the address.
Cannabis with an estimated street value of £3,100 was seized by officers, along with £680 in cash. Messages found on Pelling’s phone supported the fact he was supplying the cannabis.
Examination of the phone also revealed that Pelling had a social media account that he had not declared to police, which he was legally required to do under the conditions of a Sexual Risk Order, and the social media account had used an alias name rather than his real name, which also constituted a breach of the order.
Pelling appeared at the same court today (Thursday 23 February 2023) where he was sentenced to 8 years in prison with an additional two years extended license.
DC Martin Timmis, who led the investigation, said: “The level of depravity that Pelling reached to torment these poor children for his own sick gratification is utterly despicable.
“The tasks that these girls were forced to perform were shocking and degrading, and has understandably traumatised them.
“Pelling is evil and twisted and belongs in prison. The lives of children have been shattered by his actions, and an innocent man was brought into custody as a result of Pelling’s warped deflection tactics.
“These young girls have shown immense bravery by reporting this abuse to the authorities, and I am grateful to our partners including our overseas counterparts in America who have pulled together to safeguard these children, and put a stop to vile Pelling’s horrific cycle of offending.”
We encourage parents to talk to their children about the risks they may face on the internet, and to also help them build the confidence to confide in someone if they’ve been abused online.
The links below provide further details regarding child exploitation and online safety, and also include advice/information to parents and carers to help them start having these conversations with their children:
You can also find a wealth of other information about a range of topics including online safety, cyberbullying, consent, and sexting on the Safe4Me website: https://www.safe4me.co.uk/resources/
If you have been affected by child sexual abuse you can contact police on 101 and speak to a police officer in confidence.
We recognise that not everyone has the confidence to speak to police, but there are support services available that can help you if you are a victim of abuse.
Anyone who has experienced abuse in childhood or is concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC helpline confidentially on 0808 800 5000 or email [email protected]. Children can contact Childline on 0800 1111.