July 2023

Members of Welsh paedophile ring jailed

A young girl who was the victim of sexual abuse by a paedophile ring in North Wales has been commended for her “courage and integrity” following their sentencings.

Michael Stewart, 41; and Matthew Penny, 44; both of no fixed abode, were jailed at Mold Crown Court today (July 13) having both raped the girl, who cannot be named.

Stewart was handed a life sentence with a minimum term of 16 years, while Penny will serve at least 13 years of a two-decade sentence.

The court heard that the girl was also sexually abused by other men who have yet to be identified.

Incidents of abuse happened in places including Anglesey, Prestatyn and Conwy.

Stewart admitted the charges of sexual abuse made against him, while Penny was found guilty after trial.

Prosecuting, Anna Pope told the court that the girl, who cannot be named, was “systemically abused” by Stewart from the age of about 10.

A number of “particularly graphic and violent” videos and photos of the abuse would be distributed onto others by Stewart

As well as raping the girl herself, Stewart directed the sexual abuse of her by other men throughout North Wales, on the condition that the abuse be filmed and a copy be sent to him.

The majority of the other men involved have yet to be found, but Penny was identified and convicted from two meetings he had with girl in Conwy and Prestatyn.

At those meetings the girl was raped by both Stewart and Penny.

Police attended Stewart’s home address on Anglesey last year to execute a search warrant after reports of two “Kik” accounts, linked to his IP address, which had uploaded footage of child sex abuse.

Stewart was arrested, and while on his way to custody, said he had been forced by another man known as “Rich” to send indecent images to others, and that if he didn’t, he would be revealed as a paedophile

When Penny was later identified, photos of the girl were recovered from his phone, while his number was found to have been saved in Stewart’s contacts list as “Rich”.

Stewart was already a convicted sex offender, having made and distributed indecent images of another child, while Penny had no previous convictions.

The girl said she felt she had no choice but to comply and felt “threatened”, and did not previously report the abuse for “fear of what would happen” to her.

She believed she had been abused by “four or five” other men, as well as Stewart and Penny.

Stewart also posed as “Rich” on Instagram to contact her directly, sending her messages threatening to report her to police or tell her friends unless she sent sexual messages to him.

He also used another fake online profile, posing as an 18-year-old rugby player, in a bid to obtain more indecent images of her, and through which he also directed her to meet other men for sex.

Penny was identified after becoming involved in an online conversation, under the name “Rhyl Jack”, with an undercover officer.

He told the officer he had a sexual interest in children, and was currently sexually active with a girl.

The undercover officer and Penny made arrangements to meet, and after the IP address linked to the account was found to be under his wife’s name at their Prestatyn address.

Penny was arrested in December 2022.

In a statement, the girl said she “bottled up inside” the abuse for “so many years”.

“Things will never be the same again,” she said, adding that she has felt “unbearable” guilt.

Presiding over the sentencing, Judge Timothy Petts described the case as one of “virtually indescribable suffering”.

To Stewart, who sat throughout the entire hearing with his head face-down on a desk in custody, Judge Petts told him he had treated the girl in an “utterly horrific way”.

Judge Petts told Penny that, though he was involved to a “much lesser extent” than Stewart, he had caused the girl “severe psychological harm” nonetheless.

Both men received a lifetime restraining order, prohibiting them from ever contacting the girl again.

They are also banned for life from working with children or vulnerable adults, and must adhere to sex offenders register notification requirements indefinitely.

An indefinite sexual harm prevention order was issued to Penny.