West Midlands Police issued a warning to parents today as an online sexual predator was jailed at Wolverhampton Crown Court.
Keven Eaton, a 30 year old youth football coach from Tipton, set-up social media accounts pretending to be a 14 year old schoolgirl. He chatted to youngsters to gain their confidence and then persuaded them to strip for him on webcams.
In December 2012 the concerned mum of a 13-year-old girl reported threats being made to her daughter online to police.
West Midlands Police traced the threatening messages to a computer being used in Aldridge Road, Oldbury, and discovered “Charlotte’s” true identity.
The force’s specialist Child Online Safety Team (COST) carried out a thorough ‘e-forensics’ examination of Eaton’s online activity – trawling 1,000s of emails and social media exchanges – and found he’d contacted up to 100 children with his alter ego, including two boys he coached at the football club.
On evidence gathered by West Midlands Police IT specialists, Eaton was charged with 30 offences, relating to 30 children, committed between July 2011 and March 2013. Offences included: inciting boys and girls to engage in sexual activity in front of webcams, making indecent images of children and distributing the images.
Eaton pleaded guilty to all 30 offences and was sentenced to six years in prison at Wolverhampton Crown Court today. He was also ordered to sign the sex offender’s register for life and a Sex Offenders Prevention Order was passed, preventing Eaton from ever working with children or from sleeping in the same building as any child under the age of 16.
West Midlands Police are keen to highlight the case to encourage parents to consider how their children use the internet and how to keep them safe.
Investigating officer, Detective Constable Rob Piper, encouraged parents to be proactive, saying: “Parents need to play an intrusive role in their children’s online activity to make sure they don’t come to any harm whilst surfing the net. You need to be absolutely certain who you’re talking to online – your son or daughter may believe they’re chatting with another teenager but, in reality, it could be someone much older with sinister intentions.
“Parents shouldn’t feel awkward asking their children what they’re up to online and who they’re conversing with on social media. Perhaps have an agreement that they only use the internet in an overt manner, in the living room, rather than squirreled away in their bedrooms.
“And ask whether your child really needs a webcam in their bedroom? If a child is persuaded to expose themselves in front of a camera then they’ve lost control of that image or video and it could be floating around online forever.
“Offenders are sometimes very tech savvy – but West Midlands Police has a dedicated team of online child protection specialists and IT experts who are capable of following their online tracks and exposing their activity. We’re making notable arrests on a daily basis and as a result helping prevent youngsters from becoming victims.”
DC Piper said: “This was a shocking abuse of trust, especially given that Eaton also had the role of Child Protection Officer at the football club. In fact, some of his victims even confided in him that ‘Charlotte’ was making threats against them online and asked for his advice.
“Many of these children realised they’d gone too far in sending naked images of themselves and were petrified ‘Charlotte’ would carry out threats to share the images with friends and family if they didn’t bow to his demands. One of his victims was so upset by Eaton’s actions that she tried committing suicide.”
The national Child Exploitation & Online Protection (CEOP) team has developed a website – Think You Know – which provides useful web safety advice and a guide on how to report worries or concerns about people you’re chatting to online. The website is aimed at all age groups, including parents and carers.