Chatroom groomer given jail term

POLICE have warned of the dangers of social networking sites after an Essex man was jailed for having sex with a 13-year-old he met in an internet chat room.

James Hore

POLICE have warned of the dangers of social networking sites after an Essex man was jailed for having sex with a 13-year-old he met in an internet chat room.

James Grenfell, from Braintree, groomed his young victim on a popular website for youngsters and when they absconded a massive nationwide man hunt was launched.

Pictures of the 22-year-old were put out by police forces across the country as detectives feared the teenage girl had been abducted from her Torquay home last September.


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The pair were spotted in Edinburgh by a member of the public and Grenfell was arrested.

Grenfell was jailed for 18 months at Exeter Crown Court this week after earlier admitting three charges of sexual activity with a child and a fourth of meeting a child following sexual grooming.

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Speaking afterwards, police warned parents to be on their guard.

Detective Sergeant Brian Slade of Devon and Cornwall Police's child exploitation unit said: “The internet is a wonderful resource which provides a fantastic opportunity for learning and communication.

“Unfortunately, this does also present opportunities for those with a sexual interest in children - grooming is a very worrying concept for any parent.

“One of the most important things is to ensure your children are chatting to people they know in the real world, not purely in the virtual world.

“If they do not, they can never be really sure who they are talking to.”

The court heard that Grenfell did not deliberately search for an underage girl for sex and that there had been a mutual relationship with the teenager.

Prosecutors had said the victim had mental health and emotional problems and was “clearly vulnerable”.

The pair formed a sexual relationship during a series of meetings and stays at B&Bs is Torquay, London and Edinburgh.

However, Recorder, Miss Sarah Munro QC, said she accepted that the 13-year-old had “not been damaged by this and regarded it as an adventure”.

Grenfell was also placed on the Sex Offenders' Register for 10 years.

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