May 2023

Pervert paid for children abroad to be sexually abused over live stream

The court was told that former coach driver Bernard Grace lived a solitary life.

The 72-year-old was bound to his wheelchair following a leg amputation, and so his only source of communication with the outside world was through his Apple MacBook Air.

His family, including his eight children, were estranged from him and live miles away in Scotland.

And so his sordid secret remained hidden.

Meanwhile, in October 2020, the National Crime Agency was investigating a series of suspicious payments made to various Filipino women, including one woman who was under investigation for sex trafficking offences.

Up to 600 payments had been made to the women, from a Halifax bank account, totalling nearly £21,000.

Their investigations led them to Grace’s door in Wythenshawe.

Executing a search warrant, they found his laptop and conducted a thorough examination. It revealed horrific and depraved abuse.

Officers poured through thousands of Skype messages within 23 chats. In each chat, Filipino women were directed and manipulated by Grace to live stream the sexual abuse of children.

Months later, in March 2021, the brazen paedophile was found sitting at his computer doing the same thing when his offender manager walked in.

Admitting numerous offences of arranging or facilitating the commission of a child sex offence, as well as making indecent images, Grace has finally been jailed.

Manchester Crown Court heard that Grace spoke to the women, most of which he had met on Facebook, before moving the conversation over to Skype so they could video call.

“These women were endeavouring to make ends meet, to better themselves and the lives of their children in relation to education,” prosecutor Rosalind Scott-Bell said.

In one chat, Grace told the woman, who had a five-year-old daughter, he would send money to her if she performed an indecent act. He sent an inappropriate picture to the woman and told her to show it to her child – and sent £15.

In another conversation, a woman asked if he would pay her rent. Grace said he wanted a picture of her nine-year-old daughter. He sent two payments totalling £35.

The court was told of another chat with over 1,000 messages between August and September 2019. He offered money to a woman in return for the woman’s children to perform indecent acts.

Grace sent the cash via PayPal and an indecent image of himself. The court heard he ‘encouraged’ the woman to set up a live stream of the abuse of the woman’s daughter – and offered money in return for ‘live shows’.

He sent that woman £173. Grace, the court heard, ‘persisted’ when women initially refused to carry out his sick wishes. He bombarded one woman with up to 5,000 messages, asking her to send inappropriate images of her child.

A number of indecent images of children were also found on Grace’s computer. NCA officials were granted access to his bank account as they built a case against him.

It later transpired that he was receiving disability benefits into that same account.

Grace was arrested and interviewed, telling officers he did not have access to children and stating that he had never been to the Philippines before.

He also said he worked as a coach driver for 20 years, but had to stop working after suffering kidney failure and a leg amputation. He accepted he had transported children as part of his job.

“The defendant told officers that he didn’t have an in-depth knowledge of the internet. He said he would spend four hours a day talking on Facebook,” Ms Scott-Bell said.

“He didn’t use any social media, and would focus on looking for relationships. He admitted exposing himself over webcam.”

When cops asked him about speaking to underage children, he said: “Not in that way, if somebody talks to me, I’ll talk to them.”

He also admitted touching his genitals over webcam and claimed he had received the ‘unsolicited’ images.

When officers asked why he made his demands, he said: “Just to push it, you know what they are like in the Philippines. You know sex over there doesn’t mean nothing to them, they have sex when they’re 11.”

Between 2015 and 2021, Grace sent more than £20,800.

When his offender manager visited in 2021 – following his arrest – he was sat using a computer and appeared to be ‘liaising’ with women in the Philippines about the sexual abuse of children.

“These children were vulnerable due to poverty,” the prosecutor concluded.

Sentencing an emotional Grace, Recorder Anthony Donohue said: “What you did involved the exploitation of vulnerable and impoverished individuals in the Philippines. It’s staggering that over a period of time you sent £20,800 in payments for sexual services involving the exploitation and attempted exploitation of children.”

Grace, of Stoneacre Road, Wythenshawe, was jailed for eight years. He pleaded guilty to 11 charges of arranging/facilitating the commission of a child sex offence; and two offences making indecent images of a child.

He was made the subject of an indefinite Sexual Harm Prevention Order, restricting his use of the internet. He will be on the Sex Offender Register for life.