A 31-year-old man has pleaded guilty to sexual grooming and two counts of sexual activity with a child.
Christopher Woakes, of Portbury Grove in Bristol, appeared at Ipswich Crown Court today, Friday April 8, where he pleaded guilty to meeting a child following sexual grooming and two counts of sexual activity with a child.
He has been remanded in custody by the court for sentencing week commencing May 23.
In August 2015 Woakes contacted a number of underage girls online via the social media platform Kik in an attempt to cultivate a sexual relationship with them.
One of them was a 15-year-girl from Suffolk with learning difficulties.
He started a relationship with her, sending her explicit images of himself. This led to him meeting her near her home address on a number of occasions during October 2015 and during these meetings he engaged in sexual activity with her.
He encouraged the teenager to lie to her parents about who she was meeting – they were told she was spending time with a teenage boy - but they became suspicious when they eventually saw him and realised that he was much older than 16. At this point all contact was severed with Woakes by the victim and her parents and police were informed.
His true identity came to light in November when he repeatedly tried to contact the victim, sending her a mobile phone through the post and loitering outside of her home address.
Members of the public became suspicious of his presence in the area and reported this to the police which assisted in helping to identify him as the suspect.
He was arrested on November 20 last year at his home in Bristol and a number of computers and devices were seized.
He was brought to Suffolk where he was interviewed by detectives from the Gemini specialist sexual offences team in Bury St Edmunds.
Woakes refused to answer any questions in interview and was subsequently charged with meeting a child following sexual grooming and sexual activity with a child.
Analysis of the computer devices and phones owned by Woakes, by Suffolk Police’s High Tech Crime Unit, uncovered a number of illegal images of children.
These enquiries also highlighted that Woakes had attempted to contact children in a number of countries attempting to distribute and obtain illegal images.
Officer in the case DC Matthew Ross said; “This case highlights a number of issues facing children and the growth in online grooming. Sexual predators will target a child’s vulnerabilities looking for signs of emotional neediness and low self-confidence.
“They will then work on gaining the child’s trust, isolating the child and creating situations where they can be alone together. Sexual behaviours are then normalised with low level sexual touching before progression to more serious sexual activity.
“Online social media platforms provide a place for a lot of this to happen in private especially where the child’s activity is not closely monitored.
“Suffolk Police would encourage all parents of children who use social media to foster responsible use by the child, to raise awareness of the dangers and be aware of who their child is communicating with.
“A lack of peer group interaction and low self-esteem are often vulnerabilities that are exploited and put them at risk.
“Following on from this unusual behaviours by the child such as being missing from home or coming home with unexplained gifts are warning signs to be vigilant for.”