A former Tunbridge Wells resident who used social media apps in attempts to groom children for sexual abuse has been jailed for seven years.

Gareth Lucas 2

Gareth Lucas – jailed

Gareth Lucas repeatedly sent explicit images to the profiles of two children he believed were only 14 years old.

Operating under the alias of ‘Garfuncle Lucas’, between 2 August and 13 November 2019 he accessed Facebook and instant messaging apps to seek out and contact victims.

Despite receiving several replies, clearly stating they were 14 and were at school, Lucas bombarded two children with messages of an explicit nature, urging them to engage in sexual activity and to send him indecent images.

Lucas also made efforts to meet one of them in Sevenoaks, where he planned to carry out abuse on a train.

Phone hacking claims 

Unbeknown to him, the children did not exist – their profiles were linked to fictitious accounts. He was arrested in Tunbridge Wells on 12 November 2019 and taken into custody.

During police interviews, Lucas initially denied responsibility and claimed his phone ‘had been hacked’.

At Maidstone Crown Court, he admitted two counts of attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child and three counts of attempting to cause a child to engage in sexual activity.

Lucas denied a further charge of attempting to arrange or facilitate the commission of a child sex offence but was found guilty following a trial.

On Friday 22 September 2023, Lucas, 31, from Maidstone was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment, with an extended licence period of four years.

Upon his release from custody, he will be subject to an indefinite sexual harm prevention order. He was also added to the sex offender register for life.

Detective Constable Carl Evans, of the Paedophile Online Investigation Team, said: ‘Lucas made persistent and repeated efforts to contact children for the purposes of his own gratification. He has displayed a clear desire to meet and abuse them, and the graphic detail and demands he included in his messages was hugely concerning.

‘This case also acts as a reminder to parents of children who have mobile phones and tablets to speak to them and help them understand the precautions they should take when using the internet, or the many instant messaging services that are available.

‘Children should only communicate with people that they know personally and report any suspicions or inappropriate advances from strangers to their parents, schools, or the police.’

By Ed

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