Hertfordshire Police Special Constable jailed over role in 'despicable' paedophile ring
PUBLISHED: 15:04 22 December 2017 | UPDATED: 15:16 22 December 2017
A man who worked as a voluntary police officer in Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield has been jailed for his role in a paedophile ring.
Former Hertfordshire Constabulary employee, Simon Wintle, was sentenced to two years and six months’ prison after pleading guilty to sexual activity in the presence of a child and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity in the presence of a child.
The 44-year-old was one of five men from Hertfordshire to be sentenced on Wednesday for their roles in the sexual abuse of children aged under 13.
Wintle worked for the constabulary as a civilian member of staff – predominantly based in WGC – for over 17 years before being dismissed on December 1 this year.
Between 2004 and 2014 he was also a Special Constable, which is a part-time, voluntary police officer with all the same powers as a regular officer.
The paedophile ring came to light after Michael Emerton, 33, from Berkhamsted, was arrested by Hertfordshire Police in 2016 following a tip off from another force.
Forensic examination of his computer devices revealed that he had used dating or social media websites such as Grindr, Skype and TruNude to contact the other men.
He then arranged with four of them to stream the live abuse of children via a video link. On other occasions, he arranged online to meet them and then together they took part in sex acts in front of children.
A Hertfordshire Constabulary spokeswoman said: “Hertfordshire Constabulary is committed to tackling the abuse of children and officers and staff work towards making the county a safer place to be for all.
“Simon Wintle betrayed the trust placed in him by the force and his actions will come as a shock to his colleagues.
“While his offences bore no relation to his work here as an analyst for the force, nonetheless he was suspended from his duties in light of the investigation and has subsequently been dismissed.”
Ringleader Emerton pleaded guilty earlier this year to 20 offences including four counts of rape of a child and three of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.
He was given seven life sentences on March 23 with a minimum term of 10 years to be served. This can only be reported now after reporting restrictions were lifted by the courts.
Emerton later admitted further offences including conspiring with the other defendants in order to rape, commit sexual activity with a child or engage in sexual activity in the presence of a child, for which he received two more life sentences and will spend the rest of his life on licence.
The police spokeswoman added: “Ultimately it was the diligent work of our Child Online Safeguarding Team that brought his offences to light.
“They have left no stone unturned in the pursuit of justice for the victims of Emerton and the people around him.
“He [Wintle] had previously been a Special Constable but had resigned his position prior to the time of the investigation. The offences he has been sentenced for were not in any way related to his role as a Special.”
Helena Burman, Senior Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said the case involved “serious and sustained sexual abuse of vulnerable young children”.
She added: “As a result of the hard work and diligence of the prosecution team, and the strength of the evidence, four of the defendants pleaded guilty and the fifth was found guilty after trial.
“It is only due to the great courage of the victims that this abuse was brought to light, and the full extent of the despicable and lawless behaviour of these people revealed.”
To date more than one hundred other potential offenders worldwide have been identified as a result of Operation Pendent.
Also sentenced last week were:
•Matthew Webby, aged 30 years old and formerly of Hemel Hempstead, pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual activity with a child, conspiracy to rape a child, conspiracy to commit sexual activity with a child, and possession of indecent images of children. He was jailed for nine years with an extended licence for five years.
•Robert Lindsay, aged 39, previously of Markyate, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to rape a child, conspiracy to commit sexual activity with a child, making indecent images of a child, and to causing or inciting the child sexual exploitation of a 17-year-old. He was sentenced to five years and three months in prison with a further three years extended licence.
•Paul Stevens, aged 54, formerly of Northchurch, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to rape a child under 13 and conspiracy to commit sexual activity with a child under 13. He was jailed for 10 years with a five year extended licence.
•Thomas Perry, aged 28 and formerly of Northchurch, was found guilty on December 7 of conspiracy to rape a child under the age of 13, conspiracy to commit sexual activity with a child under 13 and causing a child to watch a sexual act. He will be sentenced on January 24.