A teenager who sent pictures of his genitals to young girls in Northamptonshire and encouraged them to send him indecent images of themselves has been sentenced to 28 months in custody.
Joshua Manton, 19, used social media networks such as Snapchat to contact four 12 and 13-year-old girls across the country, including two from Northamptonshire, and incited them to engage in sexual activity.
Northampton Crown Court heard Manton’s crimes were uncovered after the parents of a victim in Northants looked at her daughter’s phone and saw sexually explicit photographs.
Robert Underwood, prosecuting, said: “The mother said she could see images sent of a man’s genitals.
“She formed the view that this was not a boy of the same age but someone of more mature years.”
Officers managed to track Manton to his home address in Westwood Road, Burnley, in January 2015.
They seized his mobile phone and analysed thousands of social media messages and text messages.
Mr Underwood said officers discovered Manton had sent a picture of his genitals and a video depicting him carrying out a sexual act to a young girl via Snapchat.
Evidence was also found of Manton’s requests to the young girls to send indecent images of themselves.
The court heard that Manton was aware of how old the girls were and had made attempts to arrange a meeting with one of them.
The mother of a Northamptonshire victim said she felt as if Manton had “taken away her daughter’s innocence.”
In a victim impact statement read out in court, she said: “Social media can be a problem for children and it is not easy for parents.
“Children need to be educated and parents need to know what children are up to online.
“I am grateful Manton has pleaded guilty. I’m not sure my daughter could gave gone through the court process.”
Michaela Williams, mitigating, said her client as “immature” and was “seeking attention” on social media.
She called for Judge Michael Fowler to give her client a suspended sentence as he was now at university and understood the consequences of his behaviour.
But Judge Fowler said he “could not avoid” an immediate custodial sentence.
He said: “The internet is now such a big part of young people’s lives. Those vulnerable due to their age have to be protected from those who prey on them by their use of the internet.
“We want the internet to be of benefit to children, not a dangerous place.
“This contact went way beyond sexual talk. It is the number of offences and the number of girls involved that aggravates this offence.”
Manton was sentenced to two years and four months in a young offenders’ institution. He will serve half his sentence in custody before being released on licence. He will be on the sex offenders’ register for at least 10 years.