Longer Jail Term For Web Sex Criminal

16 August 2013, 17:08 | Updated: 16 August 2013, 17:17

A Portsmouth man who posed as a teenager on Facebook to urge children to perform sex acts online has had his 16-month jail sentence increased to four years.

Three judges at the Court of Appeal in London agreed with Solicitor General Oliver Heald that the original term imposed on Francis Knight, 32, of Eastern Road, Portsmouth, was "unduly lenient".

After setting up accounts, Knight pretended to be a teenage girl and befriended young boys on the social networking site.

He incited eight of them to perform sexual activities in front of a web camera so that he could see them.

The appeal judges heard how he incited more than 200 other youngsters to perform in a similar way, although they did not do so.

Knight pleaded guilty to offences involving inciting or attempting to incite children to engage in sexual activities and making indecent photographs of children. He was sentenced at Portsmouth Crown Court on May 24.

His jail term was increased today by Lady Justice Rafferty, Mr Justice Griffith Williams and Mrs Justice Thirlwall after hearing submissions from Mr Heald that 16 months did not reflect the scale of the offending.

Mr Heald said the offences were non-consensual because the victims were under 13 and they did not know the true identity of the person on the chatline.

A "high degree of sophisticated pre-planning" was involved, and although the offences did not involve actual contact, they were more difficult for parents and carers of children to prevent.

Mr Heald told the judges that the long-term effect on a child confronting the fact that she or she had exposed themselves to a complete stranger was "likely to be severe", but that only time would tell.

Lady Justice Rafferty, announcing the decision of the court, said: "In victim impact statements and other means of expression, many victims reported feeling bad, scared, sick and angry."

She said that Knight, who has no previous convictions and lives with his disabled parents, "went straight on to commit more offences" when bailed.

After the ruling, Mr Heald said in a statement: "The actions of Francis Knight were appalling. He posed as a teenage girl online to gain the trust of young boys and then exploited them for his own gratification.

"Child sexual offences like these are very serious and can be difficult to detect because the culprits may never be seen by the victims and they do not use their real names.

"So I am very pleased that the Court of Appeal has today increased this sentence from 16 months to four years."