‘Predatory’ and ‘dangerous’ teenager sentenced to 14 years

A Hastings man has been sentenced for a series of sexual offences against eight young girls, and of possessing indecent images of children.

Harry Leigh, 19 and unemployed, of Mountbatten Close, Hastings, was sentenced to a total of 14 years at Hove Crown Court yesterday.

Eight years will be sent in custody, for the remaining six years he will be on extended prison release licence.

He had been convicted at the same Court on July 24th of one count of rape of a 15-year-old girl at an address in Hastings in August 2017. He was found not guilty of a second count of rape on the same girl.

He had previously pleaded guilty to; five counts of inciting four girls aged between 13 and 15 to engage in sexual activity, between 2015 and 2018; eight counts of causing seven girls aged between 12 and 15 to watch a sexual act, between 2013 and 2018; and three counts of making indecent images of children in January 2018, including images at Category A – the most serious category.

A charge against Leigh of possessing an offensive weapon, a kitchen knife, was discontinued during the trial and he was found not guilty of one count of blackmail of a girl in 2017 to 2018; and of two counts of sexual assault, against two separate girls in 2014 and 2018.

He will be a registered sex offender for life and was given a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) to last indefinitely, severely restricting his access to computers and to children under 16.

The prosecution, authorised by the Crown Prosecution Service, followed enquiries by detectives from the East Sussex Safeguarding Investigations Unit.

In sentencing Leigh, Judge David Rennie said: “I find you are a very dangerous young man, from whom the public will continue to need protection from the very real risk of serious harm”

Detective Sergeant Steve Shimmons of the Hastings Safeguarding Investigations Unit said: “In February 2018 we received a report from a local girl that Leigh had messaged her stating that he wanted to be a serial killer and had posted some concerning tweets on twitter about wanting to kill people.

“Leigh had already been arrested, interviewed, and released under investigation for the rape of the 15-year-old girl following a report we received in August 2017. Indecent images had also been found on his mobile phone.

“When we received the report in February he was immediately re-arrested for threats to kill, charged with this offence on the authority of the CPS and remanded in custody at court.

“When his home was searched a document was found which included a list of people he supposedly wanted to kill.

“As a result we contacted everyone named in the document, all local people who Leigh knew, and advised them of this information, giving them re-assurance and security advice.

“From talking to those mentioned on the list, and others, further evidence emerged that Leigh had carried out a series of sexual offences against young girls he knew over the previous five years. These offences included sending indecent images and videos of himself to young females and then asking them to return similar images and videos. Leigh would have been aged between 13 and 17 when committing these offences.”

Following the gathering and review of the evidence against Leigh charges were authorised by the Crown Prosecution Service. The evidence did not support the continuation of the charge of threats to kill but he was charged with the two rapes, the other sexual offences and blackmail.

Superintendent Emma Brice said; “Throughout this investigation we worked closely with our local authority and health partners to ensure that all necessary safeguarding steps were taken to understand what had happened with Leigh and to reassure and support those involved.

“Leigh is clearly a dangerous young man. We believe the sentence reflects this and helps to ensure that the public remain safe.”

Steve Shimmons said: “This was a complex investigation in which a large number of victims were identified. The behaviour demonstrated by Leigh was predatory against young girls. Most of the victims were then included in his list of people he supposedly wanted to kill.

“We are very grateful to the person who made us aware of the list as this information allowed us to take positive action to identify and safeguard, as a precaution, those he listed.

“Anyone of whatever age who is the victim of sexual offending, or who knows of someone else who has been can always contact us via 101 or online, and can make arrangements to talk in confidence to experienced investigators who can help provide access to sources of support and counselling.”

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