April 2023

Prolific paedophile blames cocaine after tricking kids into sending naked pictures online

A prolific paedophile with an “unhealthy interest in young girls” blamed his cocaine habit after using social media to target 10 and 11-year-old girls online.

John Riley, 34, of HMP Liverpool, formerly of Anfield, appeared at Liverpool Crown Court on Friday via video link after pleading guilty to 18 sexual offences relating to two separate cases.

Arthur Gibson, prosecuting, told the court that in 2019, in Cumbria, the mother of an 11-year-old girl saw a contact on her daughter’s phone with the name “JJ Smith” that she did not recognise, on Facebook and WhatsApp.

Her daughter later confirmed that she had been added on Facebook messenger by the defendant, and had told him she was 13 or 14-years-old, and he said he was 14 or 15-years-old.

Mr Gibson said: “This defendant must have been trawling the internet looking for young girls to contact.”

Riley gave the girl his personal phone number and they continued to talk on WhatsApp, including discussions about their sexual experiences.

Riley sent the girl an image of his penis and asked her to send videos and images of herself committing sexual acts back, which she did.

When spoken to by police, the 11-year-old victim told police that Riley had threatened to kill her if she did not send the images and videos, and that he told her “he knew about her and where she lived”.

The victim’s mother called the police in Cumbria, who determined that Riley lived in Liverpool so told Merseyside Police who executed a warrant at his home address in Croxteth

He was arrested and interviewed and confirmed he used the name JJ Smith, but claimed to be shocked by the fact that the victim was 11, not 13, and blamed alcohol and cocaine for his actions. He also denied sending a picture of his penis, and claimed there would be no indecent images found on his phone.

Riley’s phone, however, was found to contain 65 category A images, 36 category A videos, including of the first victim, 112 category B images and three videos, and 140 category C images plus two category C videos. Some of the images were confirmed to have been sourced from Facebook Messenger.

While investigation into those offences were ongoing, in 2021, the mother of a ten-year-old girl in South Yorkshire checked her daughter’s phone as she often did. She found that her daughter had been in contact with a man on Instagram, Whatsapp and Snapchat.

Mr Gibson said that, despite the victim telling him that she was only 10 years old, Riley had given her his phone number, sent her an image of his penis, asked for her to take and send indecent images of herself. He also referenced various sexual acts which the ten-year-old then Googled the meaning of.

Indecent images of the girl were also found in the deleted images section of her phone. The messages between Riley and the girl were “extremely sexualised”, and included the defendant asking the girl if she would “get naked” if they were together.

One message sent by the victim to Riley read: “I’m not doing this anymore, I’m only 10”. South Yorkshire police were able to establish that the phone number given belonged to Riley, and they transferred the investigation to Merseyside police.

In March 2023, Riley was arrested in relation to this incident, and a Samsung Galaxy phone was seized, and he was interviewed later that day. Riley said he had an alcohol and cocaine problem which “made everything a blur”, and initially said he had not contacted the ten-year-old but then said he ‘hoped he hadn’t’.

He also claimed to have no recollection of messages recovered from the victim’s phone, but “hoped he hadn’t sent them” and “hoped he had not asked her to send him indecent images”. The 34-year-old also denied being sexually attracted to children, and again denied that there would be any indecent images on his phone.

Even more indecent images of children across all categories of severity were found on his phone, plus an extreme pornographic image. Two of the images found were confirmed to be of actual children from Kent and Wales, but their parents did not wish for their children to be involved in proceedings so there were no criminal charges brought.

The mother of the first victim provided a victim impact statement which was read by Mr Gibson, and detailed that the victim began self-harming and her behaviour in school deteriorated following these offences, which led to difficulty at home as well.

Her mother said she felt unable to discipline the child because of what had happened, but she often found her daughter in her bedroom crying. She also said the crime severely affected her as well, but she does now feel that her daughter has “grown up and moved on and started to live a life again”.

She ended the statement saying how relieved they were that Riley pleaded guilty and spared them a trial. In relation to the first victim, Riley pleaded guilty to one count of engaging in sexual communication with a child, one count of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, nine counts of making indecent images and one count of possessing an indecent image.

For the second set of offences, Riley also pleaded guilty to causing a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity, three counts of making indecent images, one count of possessing an extreme pornographic image and one count of possessing indecent images. He has no previous convictions.

Judge Neil Flewitt KC, interjected: “This man has got an unhealthy interest in young girls, and that cannot derive from drink and drugs, that has to come from him.” Mr Challinor continued, stating that though these offences are very serious, there is no indication that Riley ever tried to meet his victims.

In sentencing, Judge Flewitt said: “I have no doubt that what you caused the victim to do will remain with her for a long period, if not for the rest of her life. “But being arrested did not stop you, because having lost your mobile phone to the police who had seized it, within 12 months you had obtained a further mobile phone and had resumed your activity.

“Though your other victim’s mother has declined to provide a victim personal statement, I have no hesitation in concluding that your offending will have had a profound effect on that victim too.”

Judge Flewitt said he agreed with assertions made by the probation service that Riley was “highly controlling, manipulative, calculated and sophisticated in his offending”, and said he posed a high risk to young girls.

Riley was sentenced to 12 and a half years in prison.

Forfeiture of the phone seized was ordered, and he will be subject to notification requirement and a sexual harm prevention order for the rest of his life.