'Every parent's worst nightmare' - Essex paedophile is jailed

Paedophile Matthew Clarke was jailed for 12 years at Ipswich Crown Court

Matthew Clarke was jailed for 12 years at Ipswich Crown Court - Credit: Essex Police

A paedophile described by a judge as "every parent's worst nightmare" after he manipulated and groomed 13 young girls has been jailed for 12 years. 

Shop worker Matthew Clarke, 23, used various social media platforms to groom his victims including Snapchat - where he used the mapping application to identify and then contact girls who came into the store where he was employed.

Clarke, of Delamere Road, Colchester, bombarded his victims with sexualised messages, pictures and videos on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat over a near six-year period, Ipswich Crown Court heard. 

He also communicated via Whatsapp and text message and often demanded explicit photographs of his victims and sent many of his victims pictures of his erect penis. 

In many cases Clarke tried to arrange meetings with the girls, who were aged between 12 and 15 at the time of the offences between February 2015 and November 2020. 

Joanne Eley, prosecuting, said Clarke, who was 17 when he began the offending, met and had sexual encounters with three of his victims. 

The court heard that Clarke knew how old his victims were in every case. 

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When he was first arrested in 2019, Clarke told police: "I'm not that type of person to be honest. I've got better things to do than mess around with stupid kids."

Clarke, who wore a grey sweatshirt and jeans in the dock and showed little emotion during the hearing, had no previous convictions. 

Charles Conway, mitigating, said his client was "a man of two halves" and there were "clearly two sides to him". 

Mr Conway said Clarke is keen to get help and "wants to come out of prison a better person."

At a previous hearing on August 11, he pleaded guilty to 12 counts of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, six charges of making indecent images of children and five counts of causing a child to watch a sexual act. 

He also admitted three counts of sexual communication with a child, two offence of sexual activity with a child, and two sexual assault charges.

Ipswich Crown Court Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

The care workers were sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

Sentencing Clarke on Friday, Judge Emma Peters told him: "This was a sustained and extremely damaging period of offending. 

"Manipulation and grooming is a constant theme that we see through these offences. 

"You are a threat to female children and quite frankly, you are every parent's worst nightmare."

Judge Peters jailed Clarke for 12 years, with an extended licence period of eight years. 

He must serve at least eight years in custody before he is eligible to go before the parole board. 

Clarke is also on the sex offenders' register for life and is subject to a lifetime sexual harm prevention order. 

Judge Peters also praised the child sexual exploitation proactive investigation team for their work on the case. 

Detective Sergeant Ben Rushmere, from the team, said: “Matthew Clarke identified young girls, both whom he encountered in the shop where he worked and on social media.

“He instigated conversations with them and on many occasions persuaded them to send him intimate or explicit images of themselves to him.

“In every case he knew how old the girls were and proactively pursued them, to the extent of having sexual encounters.

“This pattern of predatory behaviour over several years clearly shows he is a danger to young girls.

“Fortunately, the work of my team meant he had no option but to admit the charges against him and will now spend a significant amount of time behind bars.

“I want to praise the bravery of the victims. They are young girls who have been preyed upon and have shown tremendous courage in reporting to us what Clarke had done to them.

“No-one should be experience what they have and I hope this sentencing will help them move forward."