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Totton man Mark Mengham given suspended prison sentence for engaging in sexual communication with a child

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A TOTTON man has avoided prison for sending indecent messages to a person he thought was a child.

Mark Mengham (60), of Alfred Close, exchanged highly sexual messages via an app with a girl who had repeatedly said she was 13 years old, the court heard, although the victim was a fake profile set up by a paedophile hunting group.

The court heard he had asked for naked photos of the 'girl' and had sent a sexual video of himself.

Mark Mengham was sentenced at Southampton Crown Court
Mark Mengham was sentenced at Southampton Crown Court

The offences took place between December 2020 and January 2021 in Totton, and Mengham, a security guard, was arrested on 15th January 2021.

He was later charged with attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child, attempting to cause or incite a female child under 13 to engage in non-penetrative sexual activity, and attempting to cause a child aged 13 to 15 to view images of sexual activity.

He appeared at Southampton Crown Court and pleaded guilty to attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child and attempting to cause a child to look at an image of sexual activity.

Judge Nicholas Rowland sentenced Mengham to nine months in prison, suspended for two years.

Mengham was ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register for five years, comply with a sexual harm prevention order for five years and complete 40 days of rehab. He was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge and court costs.

After the sentencing, DC Paul Hills said: “In a world where people have the ability to exchange messages through a variety of social platforms with people across the country unknown to them, and further afield, with relative ease, it is vitally important that we, as the police, are in a position to investigate if we believe that criminal offences have taken place during these exchanges.

“We want to continue to protect any vulnerable people, including young children, against possible sexual exploitation and I hope that this conviction shows the lengths that we will go to investigate any such claims.

“We hope that today’s sentencing highlights the dangers that can be lurking on social media when engaging in people you do not know.

"This case serves as a reminder, and to also alert the parents of young children, that the digital world isn’t all it seems and that people may be seemingly acting innocently in exchanging messages initially, but that this can very quickly change, taking a turn to often dark, often sexualised, conversations and messages."

He added: “We want to encourage any victims of child sexual abuse to come forward and speak to us, no matter when it happened.

“Hampshire Constabulary takes allegations of this nature extremely seriously and will always seek to bring those responsible for committing these offences to justice.

“We would encourage anyone who has been a victim of child sexual abuse to contact police on 101 where you can speak with our specialist detectives in confidence.”

If you think a child is in immediate danger, call the police on 999.

For anonymous support, call the Stop It Now! helpline on 0808 1000 900.

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