A PAEDOPHILE who posed as a succession of teens on social media and blackmailed a 13-year-old girl into sending him explicit pictures of herself has been jailed for more than six years.

Benjamin Hollands, 41, bombarded the schoolgirl with requests for indecent images of herself and videos showing him performing sex acts upon himself.

He set up half a dozen Snapchat profiles under different names, posing as teenage boys and girls in order to make contact with his young victim and two of her friends.

Swindon Crown Court heard the sex offender even tried to get a caretaker’s job at the Wiltshire school attended by the three girls – just a month before he was arrested by the police in October 2018. Hollands discontinued his application before he was able to get the job.

Yesterday, Judge Peter Crabtree said the man had groomed his vulnerable victim: “The offences have plainly had a very real impact on her psychologically and also on her family.

“Your offending occurred over a period of 10 months, involved very careful planning and included the creation and use of a series of fake profiles to emotionally blackmail and coerce your victim with significant adverse results for her and her family.”

Hollands was said to have first got in touch with the Wiltshire girls in late 2017 when they were in Year 9.

He created half a dozen fake Snapchat accounts in different names, the majority of them purporting to belong to teen boys.

Prosecutor Hannah Squire said: “The case is complicated by the sheer fact of the defendant’s seeming ability to create any number of profiles which interacted with each other, therefore creating the impression for those teenage girls that these were genuine.

"It’s quite breath-taking in a way, how he managed to manipulate those profiles so those girls did believe they were corresponding with teenage boys.”

He exchanged messages with three girls. One girl was more savvy and soon blocked the man. Another was said to have sent Hollands explicit images, but soon blocked him on the social media platform.

His third victim was groomed by Hollands over 10 months and persuaded to send scores of naked images and explicit videos. Posing as a succession of teen boys, he tried to convince her to send more images by having one profile claim his mother had died. The fake profiles interacted in their conversations with the girl – with one threatening to beat another up if the girl didn’t do as he said.

The girl finally sought help from a counsellor at her school. The staff member described the pupil as distraught. In a victim statement read to the court the girl said she had had to move schools, had lost touch with old friends and her health had suffered as a result of case. Her family had also been affected.

An analysis of the IP address of the social media profiles with whom the girl had exchanged messages led police to Hollands.

The man had attempted to get rid of as much of the evidence as he could before police caught up with him in October 2018. He had flushed sim cards and tried to destroy devices.

He admitted his crimes in two police interviews in October and November. Hollands, of Odcroft Close, Chippenham, pleaded guilty to 12 offences under the Sexual Offences Act and one count of making indecent images.

Clare Fear, defending, said her client looked after his 75-year-old mother about whom he was concerned. He had lost his father in traumatic circumstances and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Hollands had no previous convictions.

She spoked of the “genuine relief this defendant felt at getting caught”. She added: “When he left the police station after the second interview he felt that a huge weight had been lifted.”

Hollands was sentenced to six years and two months’ imprisonment. He must sign on to the sex offenders’ register for life and will be subject to a sexual harm prevention order designed to limit his access to the internet for the rest of his life.

Welcoming the sentence, Det Sgt Rob Blake said: “This was a complex investigation because the offences were committed solely on social media platforms. He used social media to hide behind various fake profiles and abuse children, but detectives worked tirelessly to unpick his online personas.

“Hollands targeted young girls online and manipulated and pressured them into sending him photos for his own sexual gratification, leading them into thinking he was of a similar age as them.

“He has shown no remorse for his actions throughout the investigation - he is manipulative, selfish and dangerous, and I am pleased that he has been given a custodial sentence which reflects the seriousness of his actions.

“I’d like to thank the victims in this case who have shown nothing but bravery in supporting police throughout this investigation and provided statements to court which have helped ensure this man has been jailed.”