Joshua Probert jailed for 'sextortion' blackmail threats

Joshua Probert Image copyright Merseyside Police
Image caption Joshua Probert was addicted to pornography and had aspirations to become a teacher, the court heard

A university student who blackmailed young girls and women into performing "depraved" sex acts online has been jailed for 12 years.

Joshua Probert, 22, of Portland Avenue, Grimsby admitted 66 offences including blackmail and causing a child to engage in sexual activity.

Liverpool Crown Court heard the offences related to 26 victims between January 2014 and November last year.

One victim described her ordeal as "cyber-rape".

The court heard Probert, an undergraduate at Liverpool John Moores University, initially persuaded young girls and women from the UK, USA, France, Belgium and the Netherlands to send him intimate photographs of themselves.

He then obtained personal information from social media and other sources before threatening to distribute the images online if they did not submit to his increasingly degrading demands.

Pornography-addict Probert ignored pleas from his victims - 11 of them children - to delete the videos and images which he had saved.

One 14-year-old girl from Weymouth described herself to him as "the most broken teenager right now".

'Sick and depraved'

Some of the offences were carried out while Probert was studying for a BSc degree in sports sciences. He also had aspirations to become a teacher, the court heard.

Judge Gary Woodhall said Probert approached his victims online "using false names and identities and pseudonyms no doubt to cover your tracks".

"These were particularly sinister threats designed to place the females in an invidious position - either face public humiliation, or agree to your sick and depraved demands."

"These offences were designed to allow you to obtain sexual images and videos of these females for your own sexual satisfaction causing significant emotional harm to them.

"You are clearly addicted to this perverted sexual behaviour."

Officers from the North West regional organised crime unit Titan, and Merseyside Police conducted a joint investigation to identify him following a complaint about "sextortion".

When police arrived at his address on 27 December, Probert locked the door and hid under the bed, in an attempt to delete data from his laptop.

Forensic examination revealed dozens more images and videos of his victims were found on USB sticks and his computer.

John Weate, defending, said Probert was "thoroughly ashamed of his actions".

A psychiatrist concluded he had become addicted to pornography.

Because of the significant risk he posed to young women, Probert will have to serve two thirds of the sentence before he can apply for parole.

He was ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register for life and an indefinite Sexual Harm Prevention Order was made restricting his internet use.

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