Church Leader Jailed For Seducing 13-Year-Old Girl On Facebook

Church Leader Jailed For Seducing 13-Year-Old Girl On Facebook

The leader of a spiritualist group who told a teenage girl she would make an 'excellent medium' while grooming her for sex on Facebook has been jailed.

Gareth Edwards, 33, used his spiritualist church group to befriend the 13-year-old girl's family before trying to seduce her online.

A court heard Edwards carried out a 'long campaign' of grooming, with more than 600 chat logs found between the two.

The judge said it was 'every parent's nightmare', with Edwards using a degree of charm to gain the family's trust.

He told the young girl she would be an 'excellent medium' before asking her to have sex with him on the social networking website.

West Midlands Police arrested Edwards when the victim - who cannot be named for legal reasons - told them he tried to have sex with her in a car.

Officers seized a computer and hard drive from his home in Coventry. On it they found a series of indecent videos, including one of a three-year-old girl being raped.

Edwards, who lived with his mother, had admitted one charge of sexual assault and four of making indecent images, and was jailed for 26 months on Friday at Warwick Crown Court.

Judge Sylvia de Bertodano said: 'You are here because of what happened with a 13-year-old girl.

'You made it clear that at a later stage you wished to have a sexual relationship, and you took advantage of her when you were in a car together.

'This was the culmination of a long campaign. To characterise it as just a kiss in a car does not begin to cover what really happened.

'This is every parent's nightmare because you managed to use a degree of personal charm to obtain the trust of her family.

'When you were arrested you were found to have a small number of indecent images. This comes as no surprise, because no matter how much you claim this was personal to her, the fact remains you have a sexual interest in children.

'The images themselves are serious. They are video footage showing real situations; and the worst of them shows a girl of three being raped.

'They are images the vast majority of members of the public would find horrifying. Those are real children who are exploited for a market; and the market is created by people like you.'

The court heard Edwards met the girl's family through his spiritual church group.

Prosecutor Theresa Thorp said the online interactions between the two were initially about the girl's schoolwork, before Edwards asked her 'Would you kiss me? Would you hug me? Would you have sex with me?'.

Antonie Muller, defending, said there was 'a body of information' on Edwards, who was described as 'a social and sexual inadequate' - including psychiatric and pre-sentence reports.

She said: 'He got qualifications on the internet and had a genuine interest in spiritualist groups.

'It is not a world he created to come into contact with young people. She stumbled into his world by accident.

'The messages are completely unrealistic romantic fantasies. This man, after all that, built himself up to kissing a 13-year-old girl on the lips once; and when he was rebuffed, it fizzled and died.

'He has come to realise there is a dividing line between fantasy and reality.'

Edwards was ordered to register as a sex offender for 10 years and banned for life from doing any paid or voluntary work which brings him into contact with children.

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