A judge has slammed police for failing to charge a dangerous paedophile for two years – allowing him to strike again, snatching a six-year-old girl from a park and subjecting her to a horrific attack.
Lewis Jones, 24, was arrested in 2020 for grooming and sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl he met after pretending to be a 14-year-old boy on Snapchat, a court heard.
But despite the discovery of 102 child abuse images on his phone involving girls as young as nine, Jones, then living in Liverpool, was released and not charged.
While still under investigation, he went to live with his father in Manchester, where he carried out the second attack last year on a girl playing with her friends.
In scathing criticism of police, Judge Hilary Manley called the case an ‘egregious example’ of delays in police charging offenders and ‘an extremely troubling state of affairs’.
Lewis Jones, 24, was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 12 years yesterday after sexually assaulting a six-year-old girl
Sentencing Jones to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 12 years yesterday, she said: ‘The net result is, in this case, this defendant, if he had been charged when he should have been, would not have been at liberty to abduct this six-year-old girl.
‘That’s the cold facts of the case.’
The impact on both victims has been horrific, the court was told.
The six-year-old had been left with chronic separation anxiety, a wariness of males, would not play outside and has ‘completely shut down’.
Her mother said: ‘When I first heard about what happened I couldn’t stop screaming. I couldn’t believe that someone had taken my little girl and assaulted her in such a horrific way.
‘I feel helpless because I wasn’t there to protect her. I feel lucky that she is still with us, we could easily have lost her that day. I feel very angry that he (Jones) has done this to us.’
Jones was handed in to police by his own father, after he saw pictures of his son in a police appeal
Meanwhile, the older girl has suffered ‘catastrophic effects’ and ended up in care.
Turning to Jones, the judge said: ‘I am not satisfied that you feel much remorse or have much insight into the damage you have caused.’
Vanessa Thomson, prosecuting, told Manchester Crown Court that Jones first sat on a bench, furtively taking photos on his phone of girls playing in a park in Droylsden, Greater Manchester, last year.
He then approached, offering to help make a den, before grabbing the girl.
He picked her up and ran over to a wooded area, covering her mouth with his hand so she couldn’t scream out for help.
A girl, 11, realised what happened and told the other children to run for help and shouted out for the police to be called, prompting a search to begin immediately, the court heard.
Manchester Crown Court heard that during a near 30-minute period while he was alone with her, Jones subjected the child to a horrific, violent sexual attack, leaving her covered in blood.
The paedophile only let her go after he heard her family screaming her name in a desperate bid to find her.
Bruised, bloodied and injured, the girl wandered to a nearby house screaming ‘help me, I’ve been kidnapped’.
Warped Jones went on to share graphic pictures of the attack with a former girlfriend within hours.
He was handed into police by his own father, after he saw pictures of his son in an appeal.
Manchester Crown Court heard that during a near 30-minute period while he was alone with her, Jones subjected the child to a horrific, violent sexual attack, leaving her covered in blood (pictured: Police tent near Warne Avenue in Droylsden, Greater Manchester)
Explaining the delay in police charging Lewis with the earlier crimes, Ms Thomson said: ‘It appears that it took two years to build a file and then that failed internal police triage anyway, due to personnel, retirement and third-party records.’
The court heard Jones has no previous sexual offences on his record but has convictions for common assault and harassment committed when he was a child, as well as criminal damage in 2018.
There were also instances of ‘very troubling behaviour’ when he was a juvenile, including putting his cat in the washing machine which caused it to drown.
His father was a drug user while his mother died of Covid, his defence said.
Jones pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to sexual activity with a child, multiple counts of sexual assault, abduction and making indecent images of children, between January 2020 and August 2022.
Greater Manchester Police Detective Superintendent Gareth Jenkins praised the ‘considerable strength and bravery’ shown by the six-year-old and her family.
He added: ‘People like this should not be free to roam our streets and put our young population at risk.’
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Kameen said: ‘We acknowledge the comments made by Judge Manley in the sentencing of Lewis Jones with regards to the time it took Merseyside Police to bring charges against Jones for the offence he committed in Merseyside.
‘We absolutely owe it to the victims of sexual offences to ensure that we fundamentally develop and improve the way we work.
‘It’s only right and proper that we establish what happened in this case and therefore we will undertake a formal review of the circumstances which led to the delay in bringing charges.
‘We are committed to delivering an effective and timely justice for all victims, particularly the most vulnerable, which includes children.
‘Our thoughts at this time are with the victims and their families, who will never get over the impact of the heinous offences committed by Jones, and I would like to reassure them that I will personally oversee the review.’
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