Teen was pressured to send sexual images to man who threatened to share them
- Credit: PA
A 20-year-old man forced a 15-year-old girl to send sexual photos and videos and threatened to share them if she didn’t send more, a court has heard.
Richard Gardiener, of Birch Green, London, pressured the teenager from east Cambridgeshire to send him explicit images are “reduced her to tears”.
In April 2017 Devon and Cornwall Police received an email from the 15-year-old asking for help.
They visited a girl in the area by that name but she denied sending the email.
Further work revealed another girl with the same name in Cambridgeshire, and local officers were tasked with a visit to the girl where all appeared well.
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Later that same month, the teenager’s mum called the police after the girl had confided that she had been getting threatening Snapchat messages from a man she only knew as Richard.
She had sent a number of sexually explicit photos of herself to him, but he started threatening her when she refused to send him more.
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In an appointment the following day with the police, the girl told officers she had started speaking to the man via social media and the conversation had then moved to Snapchat.
The two had never met in person but soon established a relationship and spoke daily.
The girl sent indecent images to Gardiener but he soon demanded more and issued instructions as to the content of the images and videos.
Gardiener sent an image of computer coding to the girl and warned her he was a hacker and could access her IP address, find out where she lived and share the images he was ‘saving’ of her with her family and friends.
The teenager believed this and did what was demanded of her, but sometimes could not always fulfil the requests immediately.
On one occasion, she sent an image of herself in tears to Gardiener but he seemed nonchalant.
The girl’s phone was seized and initial enquiries to identify the man were unsuccessful.
However, in August, Gardiener got in contact with the girl again within minutes of her reactivating her Snapchat account.
Investigations tracked the Snapchat ID back to Gardiener, who was arrested at his home in November 2017.
His phone and laptop were seized and examined, with photos of the teenager found on his phone.
In police interview, Gardiener denied speaking to the victim and initially blamed his friends who he said came round to stay and used his phone.
He gave a name to officers of one of his friends, but when he was told that this would be followed up he asked for a break.
Gardiener then gave a prepared statement which retracted what he had said about his friend and declined to answer any more questions.
He was later sent a postal requisition charging him with causing or inciting a girl aged 13 to 15 to engage in sexual activity and possessing indecent images of a child.
Gardiener pleaded guilty to the charges at a previous hearing and was sentenced at Cambridge Crown Court on Thursday (October 22).
He was handed 12 months in prison, suspended for two years.
He was also given a five-year restraining order preventing him from contacting his victim and ordered to complete 120 hours of unpaid work.
As well as this, he was made the subject of a 10-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order and was placed on the Sex Offenders Register for the same length of time.
DC Lesley Sonnen, who investigated, said: “It’s clear that Gardiener’s behaviour was completely inappropriate towards a 15-year-old girl, who was traumatised by his actions.
“She now has some form of closure after a daunting investigation process, and can start the healing process of coming to terms with what she has been subject to.
“Thanks to his sentence and the SHPO imposed, Gardiener’s behaviour online will be monitored, minimising any future risks.
“Using the internet to target young and vulnerable girls will not be tolerated and thankfully Gardiener was stopped and arrested.
“Protecting young people from harm is one of our top priorities and we will continue to work tirelessly to keep our communities safe.”
For information and advice about child abuse, including sexual abuse, visit the force’s dedicated child protection web page.
Anyone who has concerns about child abuse should contact police on 101 (or report online at cambs.police.uk/report), children’s social care or the NSPCC.
If a child is in immediate danger always call 999.