For 20 months, a British headteacher was jailed after he groomed at most 131 children using social media while teaching at a school located in Iraq.
Nicholas Clayton, 38 years old, was from The Wirral and used Facebook Messenger to contact children as young 10 years old, asking for photos, and trying to sexually abuse them.
After asking a 13 year-old boy from Cambodia to take photos of his naked upper body, he was arrested and paid for the child’s travel to Malaysia.
The National Crime Agency (NCA), which received intelligence about the communication, arrested him upon his return to the UK.
Investigators discovered that Clayton had been communicating with hundreds of boys across the globe over just three months. These boys included those from Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan, Thailand, Indonesia and Iraq.
On 23 August, he appeared at Liverpool Crown Court. He pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual communication under 16 years old and one count of inciting sexual exploitation of children.
He was sentenced Tuesday to 20 months in prison and placed under a 15-year sexual harm prevention order.
Facebook will “hide similar predators”
This case has led to new calls for an “robust online safety bill”, with the NSPCC warning plans from Meta, which owns Facebook to introduce end-to–end encryption to “blindfold” authorities to similar predators.
Andy Burrows is the head of the child safety online policy for the charity. He said that Clayton’s case shows how easily offenders can reach large numbers of children via social media in the hopes of grooming or sexually abusing them.
“Private messaging is the frontline for child sexual abuse online. Meta intends to continue with end-to–end encryption via Facebook Messenger. This will prevent law enforcement from identifying Clayton and blindfold them.
“The UK government can demonstrate global leadership in combating online child abuse by delivering immediately a robust Online Safety Bill, which embeds child protection at every social media site.”
Michelle Donelan, the new Culture Secretary, previously stated that there is no plan to reduce the proposal for internet safety laws. Mr Burrows praised these proposals as “really encouraging”.
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Hazel Stewart from the NCA stated: “Nicholas Clayton abused the position of trust he held as a headteacher, attempting to contact and exploit children using technology to access hundreds more potential victims around the world.
“Clayton was extremely cautious and careful with his communications, making them seem innocent. But, as NCA investigators, we saw the patterns of predatory grooming that he was using to abuse vulnerable children.
“Protecting children against sex offenders in their sex is a priority for us at the NCA. We continue to pursue criminals both here in the UK as well as internationally to ensure that Clayton and other abusers are held accountable.”
Facebook: ‘taking our times to get it right’
Facebook spokesperson stated that they have zero tolerance for child exploitation and are implementing strong safety measures in their plans.
“We are focused on prevention by banning suspect profiles, defaulting under-18s into private or ‘friends’ accounts, and recently introducing restrictions that prevent adults from messaging children with whom they don’t have a connection.
“We encourage people to report any harmful messages to us, so that we can review them and respond quickly to make referrals to authorities. We’re working with outside experts to ensure that people are safe online as we roll out this technology.