Febuary 2012

‘MSN monster’ from Bristol groomed young girls on internet

A PREDATORY paedophile used internet chat rooms to groom young girls for sex.

Michael Briant targeted girls aged between 11 and 14 on websites and instant messenger services.

At Bristol Crown Court yesterday he was locked up for five years and three months for targeting the girls – and for a collection of indecent images of children found on his laptop by police.

The court heard that the 19-year-old lied about his age as he tried to convince young girls he encountered online to meet up with him for sex.

He sent schoolgirls explicit photographs of himself and even offered £200 and a BlackBerry mobile phone in exchange for performing sexual favours.

On one occasion he convinced a 13-year-old girl to meet him in a car park, going on to have sex with her twice.

Using a social network called Tagged – designed to be used by 12 to 14-year-olds – and instant messenger service MSN, Briant befriended girls and obtained their mobile phone numbers and e-mail addresses.

He spent hours every day trawling the chat rooms – sites where users exchange messages online – and checking profile pictures to find his victims. The teenager sent them flattering messages in a bid to win their friendship before bombarding them with sexual propositions.

Briant even continued with his predatory behaviour once he had been arrested by police and had his laptop seized.

The court was told he simply started using his iPod Touch wireless media device to persistently seek out more victims.

Briant, of Clavell Road, Henbury, admitted 28 sexual offences, 12 of which related to sexual activity and grooming of girls, with 16 covering the possession of thousands of indecent images and movies of children, one of which showed abuse of a three-year-old child.

Richard Posner, prosecuting, said Briant targeted girls between March 2010 and May last year.

Mr Posner said: “Within moments and at one stage straight away he was making it very clear what he would like to do. The girl’s age is something he found out very shortly thereafter.

“He appears to have the hallmarks of a predator on the internet, grooming children and collecting and storing indecent pictures of children.”

Mr Posner said that at the age of 17, Briant befriended a 13-year-old girl on the internet and she agreed to meet him at a car park in Nailsea before he drove her to the beach at Weston-super-Mare. They started a relationship and had sex twice, including on their second date.

Mr Posner said the victim now regretted the relationship and said that the age gap “didn’t feel right”.

With other victims, Briant said he was 16. He tried to flatter a 12-year-old girl by calling her “fit and stunning”, the court heard.

Briant was caught when one of his victims made a complaint to the police on May 19 last year. On his arrest, he told officers: “They say one thing and mean another” and “they said they were 16”.

After he was arrested and bailed by police, Briant continued to search for young girls, including two 13-year-olds and a 14-year-old.

The court was told that 1,079 indecent images of children and 514 movies were discovered on Briant’s laptop computer and a memory stick. Printed indecent images were discovered in a shoebox under his bed.

Following his second arrest in July last year, Briant eventually admitted that he had been seeking out young girls on the internet for several years and that he was sexually attracted to girls aged about 13. Stephen Mooney, defending, said his client was an extremely young man who was arrested shortly after his 18th birthday.

He said: “To a certain extent, he’s unsophisticated but not unintelligent. Somewhere in his make-up there’s a distortion which has become ingrained within him about girls of a particular age and his sexual attitude to them.

“It’s impossible to explain how this form of sexual attitude forms itself in the mind of a person to whom it relates – it’s essentially a curse which one wouldn’t want visited on anybody.

“The defendant tries to put his finger on it by saying that at a time when he was finding life difficult he was offered assistance by girls of that age – his sexualisation seems to be lodged at that time.”

Mr Mooney said his client would be willing to seek treatment for his problems, which he described as “a demon” and “all consuming obsession”. He said that probation officers viewed him as “not being beyond redemption”.

Relatives of his victims looked on as he was sent to a young offenders institution by Judge Mark Horton, who said the case illustrated just how vulnerable young people were when they used internet chat rooms.

The judge said: “It’s a salutary tale of the hidden dangers of allowing children unfettered access to internet chat rooms – a hidden garden where deviant sexual predators are lying in wait.

“Children must be protected from themselves and their desire to become adults before they are physically and emotionally ready to do so.”

Judge Horton said Briant used internet chat rooms every day before he went to work and then again when he got home from work until he went to sleep.

The judge, who placed a sexual offences prevention order on Briant, told him: “You would immediately ask these girls for sex in a direct and crude manner.

“With a clear deceit in mind, you knew that if these girls knew your age they would not enter into a dialogue with you at all.”