A former British police officer, Lewis Edwards, has been sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 12 years after pleading guilty to more than 100 child sex offenses. These offenses included the threatening and blackmailing of over 200 young girls into sending explicit photos of themselves on Snapchat.
Prosecutors revealed that Edwards, aged 24, targeted 210 girls between the ages of 10 and 16 by impersonating a teenage boy on the popular messaging app. He systematically groomed these girls into sharing indecent images of themselves and used threats and blackmail to coerce them when they refused, exploiting their fears of exposure.
Significantly, Edwards was a serving police officer with South Wales Police when he committed the majority of these offenses. He was apprehended in February and subsequently pleaded guilty to approximately 160 counts of child sex offenses and blackmail.
In one particularly distressing case, Edwards allegedly threatened to bomb the home of a victim and harm her parents if she ceased sending him explicit images.
Judge Tracey Lloyd-Clarke characterized Edwards as a prolific offender posing a high risk to children, describing his actions as “cruel and sadistic.” She highlighted how he manipulated and psychologically groomed his victims, seizing control over them. His actions not only provided sexual gratification but also a sense of power over the young girls.
Lloyd-Clarke also noted the significant harm Edwards caused to the reputation of South Wales Police and policing in general. Earlier this year, Edwards was dismissed from the police force following a misconduct hearing.
During Wednesday’s sentencing at Cardiff Crown Court, many victims and their families were present in the crowded public gallery, although Edwards declined to attend.
In response to the case, Snapchat issued a statement, emphasizing its commitment to detecting and preventing such abuse through cutting-edge technology. The company has implemented additional protections for users under the age of 18 and recently introduced pop-up warnings for teenagers when contacted by unknown individuals.
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Snapchat is a California-based social media company.