Online predator receives extended sentence of more than 30 years
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A 27-year-old man from Winsford has been given an extended sentence of 38 years, which includes 30 years in prison and eight years on licence, after admitting a string of sex offences.
David Harmes, formerly of Wharton Gardens, pleaded guilty to 88 sex offences involving 39 victims in the UK, and six in the USA, although His Honour Judge Berkson said on sentencing at Chester Crown Court today (6 September) that this was merely representative of the offences committed, describing Harmes’s actions as well-planned and sophisticated criminal behaviour.
Harmes received a further Sexual Harm Prevention Order and deprivation of the phone and laptop used in the offences.
He also has to sign the Sex Offences register indefinitely, and is barred from working with children.
Over a six-month period (July 2019 – February 2020), David Harmes targeted youngsters aged between six and 15 – all were female except one, who was male.
Harmes previously appeared at Chester Crown Court on 24 July to face the charges and pleaded guilty before being remanded in custody to be sentenced.
Harmes used a plethora of guises to draw his victims in, including a model scout for major clothing outlets called Jess, or a boy called Jaden or Alex, or Jadenthelad to name but a few.
He would draw them in after spotting them on YouTube or Instagram.
All this deceit and manipulation was to fuel his twisted obsession. All the time he would keep his real identity hidden.
Harmes had just served his sentence for similar crimes when he was released on 14 February 2019 but it wasn’t until July that he began offending again.
Investigating officer DS Mark Naylor from the Constabulary’s Major Crime Directorate said:
“Having received intelligence that Harmes was offending, his laptops, phones and other digital devices were seized in a warrant at his address, and Harmes was returned to prison for breaching his Sex Offender Notification Order on 8 February 2020 preventing him from committing further crimes.”
Detectives pieced together his offending and linked him by his distinctive bedding in the images they found on his devices as well as footage of him accidentally opening his laptop and it filming his face, albeit for a few seconds.
The pieces were coming together to put a case to CPS to authorise charges.
Detectives liaised with the USA authorities to secure evidence for the victims in America and on 18 May 2023 Harmes was served with a summons in HMP Risley to appear in court to face the charges, which included possessing, making and distributing indecent images, inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, sexual communication with a child and engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child.
Detective Superintendent Carlos Brunes said:
“This has been a complex and meticulous investigation with international based victims that has resulted in the conviction of Harmes and will bring justice for the victims of his offending.
“Cheshire Constabulary has an investigation team dedicated to targeting those who sexually abuse and offend against children online and teams across the force work with partners to educate children, parents and carers about online predators, to safeguard children from potential harm.
“We’re really keen to drum home the message that parents and carers need to know what their children are doing online in order to protect them from predators like Harmes. We all know that we need to teach children not to speak to strangers in the street, but we need to drive home that very same message for the online world too, to prevent people like Harmes taking advantage.”