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British ex-police officer jailed for child sex offences

A former British police officer, Lewis Edwards, received a life sentence for preying on young girls by posing as a teenage boy on social media.

A former British police officer convicted for having posed as a teenage boy on social media to trick girls into sending explicit images of themselves was handed a life sentence by a court in Wales on Wednesday.

Lewis Edwards’ sentencing follows a number of highly damaging episodes for UK forces, in particular London’s Metropolitan Police Service, the country’s largest.

Edwards, 24, exploited 210 girls aged between 10 and 16 by coercing them to send graphics images of themselves on Snapchat, a social media platform where images typically disappear, that he then secretly saved.

He will spend a minimum of 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to 160 charges, including child sexual abuse and blackmail.

‘These are extremely serious offences’

Edwards, who refused to appear in court for his sentencing, was granted a reduction of one-third to his sentence due to his entering a guilty plea for the crimes that took place between November 2020 and February 2023.

“These are extremely serious offences and the defendant is a prolific offender,” Judge Tracey Lloyd-Clarke said in the Cardiff Crown Court.

“It is clear that he not only gained sexual gratification but he also enjoyed the power he had over the young girls.”

Earlier this year, a review commissioned after the kidnap, rape and murder of a London woman, Sarah Everard, by serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens in 2021, found the country’s police to be institutionally racist, sexist and homophobic.

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Since then another officer, David Carrick, has also been jailed for life for dozens of rapes and sexual assaults stretching back two decades.

The Met revealed in January that 1 071 of its own officers had been or were under investigation for domestic abuse and violence against women and girls.

In July the UK government announced new vetting standards for police officers, after a string of scandals rocked confidence in British policing.

Under the changes, officers would face dismissal if they fail to hold minimum vetting clearance.

Around 1 000 police officers suspended

The revised code also now mandates vetting checks to ensure any officers who have previously been dismissed cannot re-join the police.

In September, the Met said around 1 000 police officers have been suspended or put on restricted duties as part of a clean-up drive.

During the trial the court heard how Edwards, who joined South Wales Police in January 2021, blackmailed many of his victims with threats to tell their family and friends unless they sent increasingly graphic content.

Edwards, who was suspended and resigned from the force after his arrest in February, also threatened to bomb the house of one of his victims and shoot her parents if she stopped sending him images.

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Detectives raided the home he shared with his parents in Bridgend, South Wales, seizing mobile phones, a computer, USB sticks and a hard drive.

Investigators found that on 30 occasions, Edwards was in contact with his victims during working hours.

– By: © Agence France-Presse