Hailsham man jailed for nine years over child sex offences

Lee Matthews SUS-140907-100818001
Lee Matthews SUS-140907-100818001

A Hailsham man is starting a nine-year prison sentence after admitting a series of child sex offences.

Lee Matthews, 32, of Howard Close, Hailsham, was sentenced by Judge David Rennie at Hove Crown Court yesterday (Tuesday), having previously appeared at the same Court in April and June when he had pleaded guilty to 22 charges.

The charges, authorised by the Crown Prosecution Service, followed an intelligence-led investigation by the Paeodophile On-Line Investigation Team (POLIT) of Sussex Police.

Key to securing Matthews’ admissions to two of the most serious offences was new patented scientific work by Forensic Pathways Ltd on his mobile phone.

Some 11 of his offences concerned a young girl known to him - one of sexual assault on a child, one of sexual activity with a child, two of causing a child to engage in sexual activity, four of taking indecent images of a child, and three of distribution of indecent images of a child. For these offences he received a total of eight years imprisonment.

Another 11 offences involved images from the Internet - five of distribution of Internet sourced indecent images, five of making indecent images of children by downloading Internet sourced images, and one of possession of extreme pornography. For these offences he received a further one-year sentence, to run consecutively to the eight-year sentence.

Three other charges, one of engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child, and two of sexual activity with a child, were ordered to remain on the court file.

Matthews was also ordered to register as a sex offender for life and was served with a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO).

Detective Constable Chris Smith of POLIT said, “At the beginning of April last year we received urgent intelligence suggesting that not only was Matthews exchanging indecent images of children via the Internet, but that he was also planning to imminently sexually abuse a young girl.

“We swiftly applied for a court warrant, then searched his address, seizing his laptop and two mobile phones, and arrested him. He did not make any admissions at first, or in later interviews, but at court this April he admitted 20 of the offences when the evidence was put to him.

“In securing admissions to the other two offences, one of taking indecent video on his mobile phone and one of sexual activity with a child, which he was still denying right up to the moments before trial on those charges in June, we had valuable assistance from Forensic Pathways Ltd. They have developed a patented scientific technique to prove that digital images on a device were created on that device, as opposed to being sent to or copied into it - a form of ‘digital DNA’ created by the camera itself.

“Matthews had denied that the video on one of his phones, which showed sexual activity with a child, had been shot on that phone. Forensic Pathways were able to show that indeed it had. Faced with this he pleaded guilty to those last two charges at the last minute, saving the victim having to attend court and give evidence.

“We understand this is the first-ever conviction obtained using this technology, which provides law enforcement with an extra option to help detect offences of any kind in which the source of digital imagery is an issue.

“We would also like to pay tribute to the young victim who showed courage in supporting the prosecution and in being ready to give evidence in court had it been necessary.”

All Matthews’ offences are believed to have been committed within the past five years. There is no evidence that any other child has been abused.