21/08/2015

Teenager Jailed For Abduction And Grooming Of Children

An 18-year-old man has been jailed on charges of abduction and grooming.

Josh Bennett, of Underwood, Rochdale, was found to have used Facebook to pester underage children for sex - and allowed his flat to be used as a refuge for missing children.

Bennett's offending came to light in December 2014 when someone with access to his Facebook account saw numerous messages sent to underage children aged between 12 and 15-years-old. The tone of the messages were overtly sexual and were asking the children to meet him at his flat and have sex with him.

The messages show Bennett was well aware the children were underage but he persisted with his sexual advances regardless.

No evidence was found to suggest Bennett did in fact meet these children and engage in any sexual activity.

The Facebook messages were passed to Rochdale Social Services, and a joint investigation was launched by Greater Manchester Police’s Sunrise Team based at Rochdale and the local authority.

As the investigation unfolded, officers established that Bennett had also allowed his flat to be used as a sanctuary for teenagers who had run away from home. While at the flat, he would ply them with alcohol knowing full well they were underage and vulnerable.

On the day Bennett was arrested at his flat, one of these missing children - a 15-year-old boy - was found hiding in a roof inside Bennett's flat.

He was sentenced at Minshull Street Crown Court, to 40 months in prison, is subject to a sexual offences prevention order and must sign the sex offender's register.

Detective Constable Ben Harris, from The Sunrise Team, said: "At a young age himself, Bennett has displayed very alarming signs of having a sexual predilection for young children.

"He also allowed his flat to be used as a refuge for children who were missing from home, and plied them with alcohol.

"As we have seen in the press recently, not only does this increase the cost and burden on police and local authorities who are trying to trace missing teenagers as people like Bennett effectively hide them from the authorities, but also places these vulnerable young people in even more dangerous circumstances at a time when they desperately need help and support.

"I would like to thank the individual who reported the alarming Facebook messages to the authorities. This allowed ourselves and Rochdale Council to investigate Bennett’s offending thoroughly and undoubtedly safeguarded the welfare of a lot of young people.

"It is also clear from the Facebook messages that the recipients rebuffed his advances and were aware Bennett was trying to groom them, which is great credit to them.

"Social networking sites are extremely popular and generally safe, but there is always a risk that they can be abused by people like Bennett. I would urge parents to keep a close eye on what their children are doing online and if you have any concerns don’t hesitate to report them. Ourselves and Rochdale Council will take action against anyone we suspect of being involved in grooming or child sexual exploitation and in doing so protect vulnerable young people."

(MH/LM)

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