A young man convicted of systematically sexually assaulting teenage girls using the social media app Snapchat has been given an 18-year sentence.
Police said unemployed Lewes Harby, 20, of Railway Road in Newhaven, was sentenced at Hove Crown Court on Thursday (October 12) having previously admitted nine counts of sexual offences against six girls aged between 12 and 15.
Harby assaulted the girls, who came from Brighton, Lancing and Newhaven, between 2015 and 2017 after gaining their trust through social media app Snapchat, said police.
He had sexually assaulted a girl aged 13, raped a girl aged 12 four times, sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl, met a 15-year-old girl for sex after grooming, sexually assaulted another 15-year-old girl and raped a girl aged 13.
An NSPCC spokesperson said: “This case shows how vital it is for parents and others to talk to children about how to stay safe online.
“Harby purposefully used the anonymity of an online platform to carry out this abuse and we hope his victims are receiving all necessary support to overcome what happened to them.
“His young victims have shown tremendous courage in coming forward and speaking out about their horrific ordeals.”
Harby will serve an initial 12 years in prison and will also serve a further six-year period on extended prison release licence supervision, according to Sussex Police.
He will be a registered sex offender for life and was given a Sexual Harm Prevention Order to last until further court order, severely restricting his contact with young girls.
In sentencing Harby, Judge Janet Waddicor said he had exploited his friendship with the victims, targeting them in an manipulative, cold and predatory manner.
Detective Constable Rich Valder-Davis, of the Brighton Safeguarding Investigations Unit, said; “Harby got to know his victims all of whom were younger than him, supplying them with mobile phones and giving them alcohol.
“As well as assaulting them, he sent some of them indecent photos of himself via the social media app Snapchat.
“Working closely with Brighton and Hove Council children’s services, we were gradually able to gain the confidence of the victims and put a case together with the invaluable assistance of the CPS and prosecutor James Dawes.
“A dangerous sexual predator who targeted young girls has now been safely removed from the streets and we hope this will act as a re-assurance for any other young girls who have found themselves in the same distressing situations. “They and their families can contact us in confidence at any time and arrange to talk in confidence to experienced investigators.
“All information will be taken seriously and we can also arrange access to sources for further advice, support and counselling where necessary.
“Call us on 101 or contact us online at https://sussex.police.uk/contact-us/report-online/ quoting Operation Meridian.”
Lorna Lee, a CPS rape specialist prosecutor, said: “Harby targeted vulnerable young girls, gaining their trust and becoming someone they felt understood them and that they could confide in. He abused that trust, fostering relationships with the girls to a point where he could then abuse or rape them. Rather than the trustworthy friend they had been led to believe him to be, Harby was a sexual predator who used these young girls for his own sexual gratification.
“Due to the overwhelming evidence in this case, which included accounts from each of his victims, Harby entered guilty pleas to these offences.”
Colin Peak, head of regional services for the NSPCC, also highlighted the need for parents to discuss online safety with their children.
“The web can be a fantastic place for children and young people to socialise, explore their interests, and learn. But children can also be just a few clicks away from being robbed of their innocence.”