Ex-Army officer jailed after watching live stream of children being abused

A former Army officer has been jailed for three years and two months after he spent thousands of pounds watching children being sexually abused, streamed from the Philippines.

Andrew Whiddett (pictured), of Portsmouth, also discussed flying out to the country to commit abuse himself, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).

The 70-year-old ex-lieutenant colonel, who was awarded an MBE for service in Northern Ireland, appeared for sentence at Croydon Crown Court on Wednesday after pleading guilty to six charges relating to the sexual abuse of children.

Judge Nicholas Ainley said: “This is a 70-year-old who has been a dedicated and courageous servant to his country and also somebody who has abused two young children – there’s no getting around that fact.

“I am well aware of the service dedicated to this country but children, wherever they are in the world, need to be protected from this type of activity.”

Whiddett had previously pleaded guilty to a charge of attempting to cause or incite a girl under the age of 13 to engage in sexual activity in November 2015, and a charge of intentionally causing or inciting a girl under 16 to engage in sexual activity in September 2016.

He also admitted that in September 2016 he intentionally arranged or facilitated the commission of a child sex offence.

Whiddett was also sentenced over guilty pleas to three charges of making indecent photographs of a child, involving eight category C and three category B images.

Whiddett had conversations with a woman between September and October 2016, in which he made clear he “wanted to sexually abuse a child when he visited the Philippines that October”, the NCA said.

Amanda Hamilton, prosecuting, told the court the grooming was “planned” as Whiddett had directed the live-streamed abuse over Skype with “known Filipino child sex abuse facilitators”.

Whiddett was sent 40 files, 19 of which included indecent images of children during the episode which took place over a few years.

Ms Hamilton said searches recorded on his computer included indecent images of naked young Asian girls and Indonesian teenagers selling friends for sex.

Siobhan Grey QC, defending Whiddett, said he showed “remorse and shame”, and claimed there was a low risk of reoffending.

She said: “He lost his wife of 40 years in September 2014 to an aggressive form of cancer. He was lonely when he started online dating and got sucked in.

“He is ashamed and embarrassed and took some time to confront his behaviour.

“In court is his entire family and friends who have given up their time to listen to the evidence and to support him.”

An NSPCC spokeswoman said: “Today’s sentence sends a clear message that no matter where or how abuse takes place, perpetrators can and will be brought to justice.

“Whiddett’s actions have caused untold pain and suffering and the effects are likely to last a lifetime.”

National Crime Agency senior investigating officer Gary Fennelly said: “Andrew Whiddett admitted live-streaming offences and making indecent images of children.

“He believed he could carry out those sickening offences from the comfort of his own home and get away with it.

“He was directly responsible for the most heinous abuse of children thousands of miles away from him.

“Live-streaming sex crimes exploits the vulnerable; he was helped in this case by facilitators whose motive is to make money.

“Live-streaming is a key threat to the UK, and one of the main forms of financially-driven offending, for which the Philippines remains a key hub.

“Anyone like Whiddett should realise that the NCA and UK police will never give up our pursuit of offenders who commit these horrific crimes.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) NCA / PA Wire.