The scale of internet predator Stephen Woolley’s offending is a stark warning for parents across Calderdale to keep an eye on what their children are up to online.
The 27-year-old from Luddenden Foot targeted a staggering 38 young girls on the internet with disturbing and obscene messages.
Police say they hope his case will shine a spotlight on the dangers children face while surfing the web.
Detective Inspector Gail Lawrie, who heads Calderdale District Safeguarding Unit, said: “This was a disturbing case and highlights the dangers associated with predatory individuals using the internet to target young and often vulnerable people.
“Parents need to be aware of this kind of activity.
“These things happen to every day people. They could happen to you.”
Woolley’s offending came to light after a victim told her parents about the messages he had been sending her. But her contact with him had been going on for some time before she alerted anybody.
An extensive police investigation which saw specially-trained detectives working tirelessly to support the victims and identify Woolley, led to the extent of his crimes coming to light.
His victims were from across Calderdale.
He was quickly found, arrested and charged.
Calderdale District Safeguarding Unit and other partner organisations including Calderdale Education and Social Care have been helping all the victims ever since.
Detective Inspector Lawrie said as social networking sites continue to grow in popularity, more and more cases of this kind are coming to her team’s attention.
She said internet safety is taught in schools across the district but it is frightening the amount of personal information and photos children, as well as adults, share online.
She urged parents to talk to their children about what they are looking at and who they are speaking to on the internet.
Advice for parents and children on internet safety is available online at the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre’s website at www.ceop.police.uk
It includes setting boundaries for the virtual world just as for the real world, thinking about what youngsters might see and who they might meet on the web, and keeping all equipment that connects to the internet in a family space and activated with parental controls.
Young people are urged to be careful what information they share online and who they talk to, being advised only to speak online with people they know and trust in the real world.