A man has been sentenced to prison over sexual offences involving children.
Benjamin Toop, 28, of Shanklin Road, Brighton, was sentenced to six years and eight months imprisonment ar Chichester Crown Court on Friday 15 January, having pleaded guilty at a hearing in October last year.
The former Worthing lifeguard had admitted three offences of making indecent images, four offences of distributing indecent images, four offences of attempting to engage a young girl in indecent activity on-line and four offences of inciting a young girl to engage in sexual activity on-line.
The prosecution, authorised by the CPS, followed an intelligence-led investigation by the Sussex Police Paedophile On-Line Investigation Team (POLIT) which resulted in Toop’s address being searched in October 2013 on suspicion that he had been making indecent images of teenage girls.
But subsequent investigation of his computer which officers seized showed that he had been systematically engaging teenage girls in indecent conversation and activity on line, according to Sussex Police.
One girl, believed to be aged 14/15 at the times of the offences, in the United States, was involved in the on-line offences which Toop admitted. He had established contact with her via a chat room.
Evidence of his contacts with other girls was also disclosed in court as part of the case.
A spokesman for Sussex Police said: “At the time of his arrest Toop was a lifeguard and swim teacher employed by South Downs Leisure at the Splash Centre leisure centre in Worthing. However there is no evidence that the offences had any connection with his employment.”
CEO of South Downs Leisure, Duncan Anderson, said: “Ben who was a swimming teacher was asked to help the police with inquiries in the autumn of 2013. “We then followed procedures and suspended Ben Toop with immediate affect and completed a full investigation.
“We also sought advise from the Safeguarding departments at West Sussex and Worthing Councils and tried to gain a better understanding of what this case was all about from the Police.
“The Police could not release any information at the time but did advise that we may wish to consider not allowing Ben Toop to take any further lessons whilst the investigation takes place,
“We took immediate action and implemented this advice. Ben did not work at Splashpoint again and was later dismissed.”
Detective Constable Chris Smith said: “This case sends a further message that people who engage in this type of activity can and will be detected and brought to justice.”
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