Paedophile officer arranged to travel to London to sexually abuse 8-year-old girl

Paedophile officer arranged to travel to London to sexually abuse 8-year-old girl

A serving police officer has been jailed after he arranged to travel to London to sexually abuse a child.

Detective Constable Lee Cunliffe, of the Greater Manchester Police, used a computer to chat to a mum who he thought was offering her eight-year-old daughter for sex.

The 40-year-old officer boasted how he would travel to London to perform sex acts on the child.

However, the mum he was talking to was an undercover cop involved in a sting operation to snare paedophiles.

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Cunliffe, a married father of one who spent 17 years with the Greater Manchester Police, was today (January 12) jailed after admitting to a string of sex offences and perverting the course of justice.

His sexual interest in children first emerged in September, 2020, following a sting operation by the Metropolitan Police.

An officer at the Met, posing as ‘Mel’, started a conversation with Cunliffe, who was using the handle ‘Steve S mancgent1’ on the internet chatroom KIK.

Mel’s fictional eight-year-old daughter was mentioned and Cunliffe described how he would get the eight-year-old girl to perform a series of sex acts on him, prosecutor Arthur Gibson told Liverpool Crown Court.

Cunliffe, from Bolton, told Mel that he was ‘not simply a fantasist’.

An investigator explained: “A fantasist in the paedophile world is someone who would talk about abuse all day long but never actually travel or come out from behind their devices to abuse.

“The defendant is saying that he is not one of these.”

Cunliffe told ‘Mel’ his job gave him the ‘freedom to travel’ and that he visited London five or six times each year, and that he planned visit the capital the following month for three nights.

The court heard how the chat became ‘more graphic’ and that Cunliffe detailed another sex act he intended to carry out on the child.

But the Met operation, Operation Mosecc, discovered ‘Steve S’ was actually a serving cop with GMP, Lee Cunliffe, and informed the force.

Cunliffe sent the messages from Swinton Police Station

Officers raided Cunliffe’s home at Ash Lawns in Bolton where cops seized a Toshiba laptop, which it was later discovered had been used by the defendant to view files whose names were ‘indicative of indecent images of children’ viewed by him between 2014 and 2016, even though the images were no longer present.

The discovery prompted another investigation into Cunliffe which established he had viewed more sick images as part of another crime investigation concerning a vulnerable 15-year-old girl who alleged her boyfriend had taken a series of pictures of them having sex which the boyfriend was said to have shared without her knowledge.

The defendant was given the case in July 2019 and the boyfriend was arrested. His Lenovo computer and Samsung mobile were seized and sent for analysis.

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After the phone and forensic report were returned to Cunliffe, he lied on the crime log where he noted ‘there is nothing on either device seized’, and the investigation was later closed.

He told his supervisors he had tried and failed to reach the teenager and her social worker. The suspect was told there would be no further action.

But the court heard both devices contained 227 indecent pictures and videos of children, 155 of them the most serious ‘category A’ images capturing vile sex acts with kids.

The court was told the suspects’s laptop – still containing the indecent images – was returned to the boyfriend.

Later – in January last year – the suspect ‘became a person of interest again’ after an IP address linked to him had been used to post indecent images on the internet, Mr Gibson told the court.

He was arrested and Crown Prosecution Service is now considering whether to bring charges, the court was told.

When Cunliffe was arrested, at first he declined to answer questions but later he made admissions, insisting that even though he felt ‘sexual excitement’ during chatroom conversations with ‘Mel’ he would not have carried out any actual abuse.

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Judge Andrew Menary QC, the Recorder of Liverpool, told Cunliffe: “Although some of these offences were committed by you in private while off-duty, they are all seriously aggravated by the simple fact that as a police officer the public is entitled to expect you will do all you can and could have done to uphold the criminal law.”

He went on: “For some years you have had an all together unhealthy and perverted sexual interest in young children. Your work as a police officer has given you particular access to indecent images of children recovered in the course of police investigations and you have used your position as a police officer not only to access this material but also to retain copies on your personal computer and then falsified police documents in order to cover up your access of these items.”

Judge Menary noted the child he tried to source for sex was not real but he went on: “It’s plain for me that the opportunity for that, had it arisen, then you would have taken it.”

He went on: “Some of those conversations happened while you were on duty and while you were performing your role as a police officer. The fact of the matter is that the conduct you were contemplating with a very young child could hardly have been more serious.”

Porn addict Cunliffe was stung by a Met operation

Porn addict Cunliffe was stung by a Met operation

Cunliffe, dressed in a suit and tie, showed no emotion as he was handed a jail sentence of eight years and four months. No members of his family were in court.

He was also ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register for life and made the subject of a ten-year sexual harm prevention order.

He admitted perverting the course of justice, three charges of possession of indecent images of children, one charge of distributing indecent images of children, a charge of misconduct in a public office and a charge of facilitating the commission of a child sex offence.

Earlier, his barrister Julian King told the court: “He extends through me his regret, sorrow and remorse in relation to the harm caused by his actions.”

He told the court his client has seen a psychotherapist who had diagnosed ‘compulsive sexual behaviour disorder’.

Cunliffe had suffered from anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia, the court was told.

Mr King referred to ‘childhood issues’ but these were not detailed in court.

After the hearing, Deputy Chief Constable, Terry Woods, said: “Cunliffe’s actions were absolutely inexcusable and have undermined the very essence of policing’s core value of protecting the public and helping those in need.

“We expect our officers and staff to uphold the highest standards and Cunliffe’s deplorable behaviour fell well below what was expected of him – he both abused his position at GMP and attempted to act on his own sexual gratification.

“I want to be clear that he does not reflect our officers who come to work each day and conduct themselves with the utmost professionalism and commitment to serving the people of Greater Manchester.

“Quite frankly, we will not stand for this behaviour and we are prepared to take robust action whenever any offending comes to light – whether that be by proactively identifying it ourselves or responding to reports made to us.

“I would encourage our officers, staff and the public to report any actions which breach our professional standards.”

Detective Inspector Suzanne Keenaghan, from GMP’s Online Child Abuse Investigation Team, said: “Cunliffe deliberately created an online profile with the perverted intention of arranging to commit a child sex offence and having indecent images in his possession for his own sexual gratification.

“This kind of offending and abuse is depraved and I hope today’s sentence sends a stark and firm warning to those who feel that they can commit these offences from behind a computer screen – we will do all in our power to identify you and bring you to justice – regardless of who you are or what you do.

“I would encourage anyone affected by this case to contact police, or our partners, to report any abuse or exploitation so that the relevant authorities can act on it.”

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