Online sex predator jailed

A SEXUAL predator posing as pop singer Justin Bieber was recently sentenced to 10 years’ jail in the United Kingdom after he pleaded guilty to criminal charges against more than 30 children aged between 13 to 15 years, including a Latrobe Valley girl.

Morwell Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team’s Detective Sergeant Peter Allan said the local girl’s family was aware the man, 37 year-old Simon Hale, was now behind bars and was “ecstatic” he had been sentenced.

“The victim is now undergoing counselling,” Det Sgt Allan said, adding the Morwell SOCIT began its investigation into the matter locally in November 2011, and was contacted by British police with regard to the offender.

Det Sgt Allan said they had received information the 13 year-old Latrobe Valley girl had been contacted by Hale via internet-based call application Skype, and had been made to perform indecent acts.

According to media reports, Hale pleaded guilty to 10 counts of causing or inciting children to commit indecent acts, and 12 counts relating to making, distributing or possessing images of young girls from the UK, Australia and Denmark while posing as Justin Bieber, or as boy band One Direction’s Niall Horan.

“When police tracked him down, they found 35 Skype accounts and more than 180 home-made videos, nearly all of young girls and 88 showing them performing various sexual acts,” a report from the Plymouth Herald said.

Det Sgt Allan said the case highlighted the prevalence of sexual predators, and the risk this posed to local families.

“It just highlights the danger of Skype; young people need to know who they are talking to,” he said.

“They should never give personal information or put themselves into compromising situations.”

He said the victims had allegedly been blackmailed by Hale, a convicted sex offender, who threatened to tell their friends or parents if they did not comply with his instructions to perform sexual acts.

“(These incidents) are on the rise,” Det Sgt Allan said.

“Parents should be aware of what their kids are doing and who they are talking to; monitor them, but there also has to be trust.

“Talk to your kids and tell them to highlight it if they are being asked to do anything they are uncomfortable with.”