On Air Now
The Capital Weekender With Ministry of Sound 10pm - 5am
5 July 2019, 15:46 | Updated: 5 July 2019, 15:56
An aspiring lawyer has been jailed for 10 years after recording more than 150 children carrying out sex acts he told them to perform.
Owain Thomas, 29, targeted "vulnerable" children between the ages of nine and 16 on the internet, paying some with online game currency so they would co-operate with his demands to perform indecent acts.
Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court heard on Friday that the Aberystwyth University law graduate used Facebook and online gaming rooms to meet young boys and girls, sometimes posing as a teenage girl himself in order to strike up friendships with boys.
Thomas used "persistent and sophisticated techniques" including disguising his voice and using different accents during on-camera chats with his victims, where he repeatedly exposed himself.
He also purported to be some of his older victims when showing explicit images taken of them to younger children.
He was caught on November 17 last year after he approached two eight-year-old boys in his car in Ferndale, Rhondda Cynon Taf, and asked them to show him their penises.
The boys refused, prompting him to say he would show them his penis, and he showed them sexual images from his phone as he drove past.
The boys complained to their parents, and he was tracked to his home in Pontypridd, where a crying Thomas told police: "I need help. I know I need help. I can't go to prison, I won't cope in there."
Police found a "vast amount" of child sex abuse images on his computer, with more than 150 child victims from the UK and the USA. Police say 146 have been identified.
He later pleaded guilty to 158 sex offences, including causing or inciting children to engage in sexual activity and distributing indecent images.
A pre-sentence report read in court said Thomas would target children he deemed "vulnerable" after meeting them online, and would take away attention and friendship if they did not comply with his demands.
Recorder of Merthyr Tydfil, Judge Richard Twomlow, said Thomas is a "dangerous offender".
He added: "I have no doubt you pose a significant risk of serious harm to members of the public.
"You were about to move to actual contact as opposed to contact over the internet."
Thomas was jailed for 10 years, with an extended sentence meaning he will serve at least two-thirds of his term behind bars until a parole board will consider releasing him.
Following his release he will spend five years on licence, and will be subject to notification requirements.
Following the sentencing, South Wales Police said Thomas created fake profiles on popular online games such as Roblox, and would persuade victims with gaming credits in exchange for sexual favours to be performed on camera.
The force also said the case represented the highest number ever of offences investigated by the Police Online Investigation Team (POLIT) in Wales.
Detective Inspector Lianne Rees said: "To tell any parent that their child has been a victim of a sexual predator was not easy. What was so alarming was the high percentage of parents who had no clue whatsoever what their children were doing online, and that should be a warning for others.
"There are predators out there who are very good at manipulating - children are vulnerable and should all be safeguarded effectively and parents have a big role to play in that.
"Being a technophobe can no longer be an excuse, as there are many websites out there which give advice and information to parents on how to keep children safe online."