A British headteacher who groomed at least 131 children worldwide using social media while working at a school in Iraq has been jailed for 20 months.
Nicholas Clayton, 38, from The Wirral, used Facebook Messenger to contact children as young as 10, asking for pictures and trying to sexually abuse them.
He was caught after asking a 13-year-old boy from Cambodia for photos of his topless body and arranging to pay for the child to travel to Malaysia so they could meet.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) received intelligence about the communications and arrested him when he returned to the UK.
Investigators found that Clayton had sent messages to hundreds of boys from around the globe spanning the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Iraq, Morocco, Turkey and others over a period of just three months.
He appeared at Liverpool Crown Court on August 23, where he admitted three counts of sexual communication with a child under 16 and one charge of inciting the sexual exploitation of a child.
On Tuesday, he was sentenced to 20 months in prison and made the subject of a sexual assault prevention order for 15 years.
New Facebook plans will ‘hide similar predators’
The case has prompted fresh calls for a “robust” Online Safety Bill, with the NSPCC warning plans by Meta, which owns Facebook, to introduce end-to-end encryption will “blindfold” authorities to similar predators.
Andy Burrows, head of child safety online policy at the charity, said: “Clayton’s case highlights the ease with which offenders can contact large numbers of children on social media with the intention of grooming and sexually abusing them.
“Private messaging is the front line for child sexual abuse online. It is therefore concerning that Meta plans to push end-to-end encryption on Facebook Messenger, which will blindfold itself and law enforcement from identifying criminals like Clayton .
“The UK Government can show global leadership in tackling online child abuse by delivering without delay a robust online safety law that embeds child protection at the heart of all social media.”
New culture minister Michelle Donelan has previously said there are no plans to water down the proposals for new internet safety laws, which Mr Burrows hailed as “really encouraging”.
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Hazel Stewart, from the NCA, said: “Nicholas Clayton abused his position of trust as a headteacher by attempting to sexually contact and exploit children, using technology to access hundreds of potential victims across the globe.
“Clayton was very careful and careful in his communication, making them appear innocent, but as NCA investigators we could see the patterns of predatory care he used on vulnerable children.
“Protecting children from sex offenders is a priority for the NCA and we continue to pursue criminals in the UK and internationally to ensure abusers like Clayton are held to account.”
Facebook ‘taking time to get it right’
A Facebook spokesperson said: “We have zero tolerance for the exploitation of children on our platforms and build strong safeguards into our plans.
“We are focused on preventing harm by banning suspicious profiles, relegating under-18s to private or ‘friends only’ accounts and recently introduced restrictions preventing adults from messaging children they are not connected to.
“We also encourage people to report malicious messages to us so we can see the content, respond quickly and refer to the authorities. As we roll out this technology, we’re taking the time to get it right and working with external experts to help in keeping people safe online.”