Monstrous case of online rapist Paul Leighton, who blackmailed children around the world into sex acts with siblings
Paedophile Leighton, who has been jailed for 16 years, posed as a young girl to convince victims to send him explicit images - then used extortion to force them into becoming abusers themselves
A British paedophile who blackmailed as many as 100 children on the other side of the world into committing sexual acts has been convicted of rape and sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Posing as a child, Paul Leighton, 31, used between 30 and 40 fake Facebook accounts to befriend teenagers in the US, Canada and Australia, and persuade them to send naked or sexual images of themselves.
Once he had received the pictures or videos he would use them to blackmail the children into becoming abusers themselves by threatening to send the images to family members, friends and classmates.
Faced with humiliation, the children agreed on a number of occasions to abuse young siblings and relatives. In one case, a 14-year-old boy from Florida raped his 12-month-old niece to appease Leighton.
The teenager and another boy similarly targeted by Leighton were arrested for rape and incest.
Leighton, from Seaham in County Durham, was successfully prosecuted despite not being physically present when the crimes were committed.
Sentencing him to 16 years with a six-year extended licence, Judge Robert Adams said: “You have effectively destroyed the lives of these people against whom you made these threats.” He ruled that Leighton was “clearly dangerous” and posed a risk to children in the UK and abroad.
Prosecutor Paul Reid told Newcastle crown court that the fate of the boys in the US judicial process was not known to him.
“This was the utterly appalling abuse of many children and it is suspected by the police this could be as many as 100 in the United States, Canada and potentially a couple in Australia,” he said.
“He contacted children through various Facebook accounts using assumed names such as Emma Sanderson, Laya Anderson and June Clarke.
“He coerced them into sending videos or photographs of themselves naked and then made threats to expose their previous activity to family and friends.
“He admitted to using 30 to 40 Facebook accounts to commit coercive acts beyond getting people to send images of themselves.
“FBI investigators in the United States discovered 15 Facebook accounts traceable to this defendant.”
Leighton employed the same method on a 14-year-old girl from South Dakota, forcing her into sexual acts with her brother, which they were instructed to video for him.
A 13-year-old girl in Tennessee was coerced in the same way into sexual acts with her brother.
Leighton admitted rape, sexual assault on a girl under 13, making and distributing indecent images, causing or inciting sexual grooming, blackmail and possession of a class B drug.
Outside court, DS Peter Morgan said it was the worst case of his career. “He has victims in this country, America, Canada and Australia and there may be dozens more who have not yet reported abuse to the authorities,” he said.
“He was calculated and sophisticated in his approach to this abuse and his lack of thought for his victims is spine-chilling.”