UK paedophile gang raped and abused babies, toddlers and pre-school children in attacks streamed over internet, court hears
A gang of paedophiles raped and abused babies, toddlers and pre-school children in attacks that were streamed over the internet to users around the world, a court heard.
The ring preyed on the families of the youngsters they targeted, in one case grooming a mother and father before their baby was born.
Members travelled hundreds of miles to carry out sickening attacks together, or used the internet to encourage and direct others to abuse victims.
Chilling online chats revealed that members of the gang, who lived across the UK, would offer advice on how to drug young victims and avoid injury.
The seven men - aged between 31 and 51 and including three previously convicted sex offenders - appeared before Bristol Crown Court to be sentenced.
Judge Julian Lambert said the process would take at least two days, with sentences imposed on the defendants either tomorrow or on a later date.
Together, the men have been convicted of 30 child sex abuse offences, including conspiracy to rape and the rape of a child under the age of 13.
- John Denham, formally known as Benjamin Harrop, 50, from Wiltshire
- Matthew Stansfield, 35, from Hampshire - a convicted sex offender
- Adam Toms, 33, from Somerset
- Christopher Knight, 35, from Manchester
- Robin Hollyson, previously known as Robin Fallick, 31, from Bedfordshire - a convicted sex offender
- David Harsley, 51, from East Yorkshire - a convicted sex offender
- Matthew Lisk, 33, from East Sussex
Prosecuting, Robert Davies told the court he would not give in-depth details about offences committed by the men.
"The manner of it is sufficiently disturbing that it would not be capable of being reported by the press in any eventuality," Mr Davies said.
Mr Davies said the victims included babies, pre-school children and two brothers in America, who were forced to abuse each other for paedophiles watching online.
"The investigation and prosecution of these defendants exposed a world many would not have believed," Mr Davies told the court.
"The evidence discovered the shocking interest a group of men had in sexually assaulting babies, toddlers and pre-school children.
"A real baby was for certain abused and raped by some of those involved. Another lad was drugged and abused.
"Another boy was brought to a room where a defendant engaged in sexual activity for the enjoyment of two others, who were watching over the internet.
"The youngster's presence was a big part of what was arousing them."
Mr Davies said the attacks were carefully planned, involving defendants driving hundreds of miles "all for the chance to perpetrate rape or cruel sexual indignities against a baby or a child".
The men would communicate through Skype, the dark web and video conferencing facilities, used to stream abuse and share images.
Stansfield ran a chat room specifically for those with an interest in abusing or raping young children and babies.
One baby was posed to hold a piece of paper advertising such chat rooms - showing others the men had "access" to him, the court heard.
"They could link up in different ways, using the internet to play abuse or watch it live and encourage the person carrying out the abuse," Mr Davies said.
"All of them would know exactly what they were involved in.
"The evidence reveals the abuse was arranged when there was a narrow window of opportunity to be alone with a young baby or child.
"Other men turned up to take part or encouraged and directed others when they couldn't be there."
Mr Davies said online chat logs made for "deeply disturbing reading".
"The men have minds that are wired to finding the idea of raping babies and youngsters a sexual turn on," he added.
The men used chat names such as activep, with p referring to paedophile, dirtydevilUK and pervelad111.
The National Crime Agency launched its investigation, codenamed Operation Voicer, last September after Toms contacted police and admitted he had abused a child.
Their inquiries led to the unmasking of the ring operating across the UK, which had links to other paedophiles across the world.
In the weeks that followed, the other six members were arrested and a further two victims were identified.
Another 21 children have been the subject of "safeguarding" measures in relation to the investigation.
Family members of those abused provided victim impact statements speaking of how they trusted the defendants near their children.
"Clearly the discovery of what's happened and the abuse of trust that they had placed in these individuals is profound and long lasting," Mr Davies said.
He said lengthy chat records, footage and images had been recovered during the investigation, including descriptions of abuse given by the defendants in police interview.
"It clearly makes for almost unrepeatable, sick, depraved, cruel, callous - all of these words can be used appropriately when looking at this material," Mr Davies added.
Daren Samat, representing Hollyson, said his client had "two sides" and had attempted suicide after the uncovering of his offending.
"He sought solace in a dark world, a world that effectively poisoned him," Mr Samat added.
Hollyson was handed a three-year community order in July 2008 for distributing and making child abuse images.
In 2011, he was jailed for 14 months for making indecent images of children and made the subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order.
Stephen Dent, representing Knight, who has no relevant convictions, apologised "to those concerned" on behalf of his client.
He said Knight has offered to meet his victim's families and take part in studies to prevent paedophiles from offending.
"He has been tormented by these sorts of feelings for many years now," Mr Dent added.