A WOMAN and four men have been jailed for their part in an international paedophile ring which committed “horrific” crimes against young children in the UK and Australia.
Robert Hathaway, 37, of Portsmouth, was given an indeterminate sentence of 12 years at Portsmouth Crown Court yesterday after he was revealed as the ringleader of a group which “systematically and repeatedly” abused two young children on a daily basis.
His partner Melissa Noon, 30, received four years, while three other men also received prison sentences after meeting the couple over the internet and becoming involved with the abuse.
Judge Roger Hetherington told Hathaway he would not be released until the parole board deemed him no longer to be a danger to children, with a minimum term of at least six years.
“This was systematic and continuous sexual abuse of the worst sort,” the judge said. “It involved perpetrating against the children any conceivable sexual act.”
A six-week trial heard that the two young children in the UK were repeatedly abused by the group, who used a nudist website as a guise for their perversions.
Hampshire police launched their investigation into the ring after being tipped off by the authorities in Australia, who had uncovered a “mirror image” ring in Brisbane and Sydney which also abused at least one young child.
Hathaway had been in contact with this ring and shared images with them, and one of the charges faced by Noon was for encouraging the Australian child to engage in sexual activity.
A total of 2,000 pages of chat logs were uncovered by police, as well as 14,000 indecent images of children and 300 videos of children being abused.
Kerry Maylin, prosecuting, said the victims were “systematically and repeatedly” raped by Hathaway and sexually assaulted on a daily basis.
The abuse was documented with thousands of photographs and videos, some as long as 42 minutes, which were distributed by Hathaway over the internet.
These included the abuse being carried out while the victims watched children’s television programmes and during bedtime stories.
The three other defendants who became involved were also jailed.
Stephen Fraser, 42, of Hemingford Road, Cambridge, was sentenced to four years with an extended licence period of six years; Simon Hilton, 29, of Wolsey Road, north London, was imprisoned for four years with an extended licence period of six years; and Lee Parson, 38, of Arundel Street, Portsmouth, was jailed for three years.
Addressing Hathaway, Judge Hetherington said: “I have no doubt you set the rules and enforced the regime.
“You took advantage of Noon’s dependence on you, and cajoled her into adopting the lifestyle you decided.
“You set out with ruthless determination to exploit these two innocent children you used as your sexual playthings, but also for the gratification of other men.”
Stephen Smyth, defending Hathaway, said his client suffered depression and had been vulnerable to “outside influences” since the death of his mother when he was eight and his father when he was 10.
He said: “In his grey and miserable life, there was really nothing other than sex.”
Speaking outside the court, Detective Inspector Victoria Dennis, the senior investigating officer, said: “This is one of the most horrific incidents of child abuse I have ever investigated, and revolved around what I can only describe as an international paedophile ring involving 35 suspects in total.”