Victims of paedophile police officer Edwards praised for ‘exceptional’ bravery
The young girls who were targeted, abused and blackmailed by paedophile police officer Lewis Edwards have been praised for their “exceptional” bravery which helped bring him to justice.
Edwards (pictured under questioning), 24, was handed 13 life sentences and ordered to spend a minimum of 12 years in prison for 161 offences committed through use of the social media platform Snapchat, relating to girls aged between 10 and 16.
He did not attend court for his sentencing at Cardiff Crown Court, which began on Monday and concluded on Wednesday morning.
Lucy Dowdall, specialist prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service, said the bravery of the victims meant countless more young girls were protected.
Cardiff Crown Court heard that Edwards was in contact with 210 identified victims, though there are numerous other girls who were abused by him.
Ms Dowdall said police were still investigating Edwards and providing help and support to victims, though some may never be identified further than their Snapchat username, or may live outside the UK.
She told the PA news agency that officers had arrested Edwards at his home in Bridgend, South Wales, after receiving intelligence that explicit images could be downloaded from the dark web.
“Officers identified the IP address though Edwards had put software in place to disguise it,” she said.
“They identified his address and realised they were dealing with a serving police officer. They obtained a warrant, executed it, arrested Lewis Edwards and seized a number of devices.
“They began to review the material and that’s when the volume of this case began to become clear.”
Ms Dowdall described the impact of Edwards’ crimes against his young victims, including mental health issues and self harm.
She added: “It became very apparent that the trauma he had caused to a number of these victims was significant.
“I didn’t want to put those children through the trauma of giving evidence at a trial so worked to build a prosecution on the basis of gathering all evidence we could so he had no alternative than to plead guilty.”
Cardiff Crown Court heard that Edwards added the girls on Snapchat, pretending to be someone they knew or a boy of the same age.
He then groomed the girls before pressuring them to send indecent images and engage in sexual behaviour for him to view online.
Edwards secretly recorded the girls and used the images to blackmail them into performing more extreme sexual acts.
Ms Dowdall said: “The magnitude of his offending has been shocking to them. Each victim thought that they were the only one.
“I think they take solace in the fact that they weren’t alone.
“The police are continuing with the investigation and continuing to review the devices. They will continue their safeguarding approach.
“There are more victims. But it may be we can never identify some of the victims because their Snapchat usernames are not easy, or they might live outside of the UK.”
She said there was “massive” relief for the victims and their families when it became clear that Edwards would plead guilty to the charges.
The prosecutor added: “The victims that have come forward and have been prepared to speak to the police and talk about what happened, they have shown remarkable courage and maturity beyond their years.
“Without their bravery, there would have been countless other victims. They have been nothing short of exceptional.”
She called for parents to have “more open and frank discussions” with their children about social media and to make sure they input correct dates of birth and ages when using it.
Children should also feel able to go and speak to their parents if they receive a friend request online.
“Edwards played on the fear and embarrassment of the victims. They were too scared to tell their parents,” Ms Dowdall said.
“His ability to play on that meant he was able to continue offending.
“A child needs to know if they find themselves in that position, they can tell a parent what they have done, without judgment or humiliation, and adults can help in some way.”
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