South Devon ex-student police officer jailed for online sex offences with girl, 9
A former student police officer who sent sexual messages and explicit pictures of himself to a nine-year-old girl online has been sentenced to four years in prison.
Jason Hicks, 31, also persuaded the victim to send him intimate photos – and attempted the same with four other children.
The crimes were uncovered while Hicks, from Bishopsteignton, was in training to become a Devon and Cornwall Police Officer.
He was immediately arrested and suspended, and then summarily released.
Officers found more than 1,200 offensive images and videos of children on his laptop, iPad and other digital devices, which were confiscated when a warrant was issued at his home.
Hicks fully admitted to crimes dating back to 2012 in his first police interview and told detectives he was relieved to have been caught.
He pleaded guilty to a total of 13 charges and was sentenced at Exeter Crown Court today (Thursday 2 February).
Hicks admitted to engaging in sexual communication with a child – a nine-year-old Southwest girl – and inciting her to engage in sexual activity between March and April 2021.
He had befriended the girl online by posing as an older teenager on TikTok before switching to Snapchat and exchanging sexually explicit messages with her.
The child’s parents discovered that she had been communicating with an adult man and contacted the police in their area.
Investigations and inquiries later led officers to Hicks in Devon, who at the time was a student police officer and was still in training school. He had not yet held any public duties on the front lines.
The Devon and Cornwall Police Online Pedophile Investigations Team and Professional Standards Unit planned and executed an urgent arrest warrant at Hicks’ home on 20 January 2022.
He was paroled following an accelerated misconduct trial in February 2022 and placed on the College of Policing’s banned list.
Hicks was convicted on an additional four counts of attempting sexual communication with children and another four counts of attempting to incite them to engage in sexual activity
He exchanged sexual Snapchat messages with four children between December 2021 and January 2022, who he believed were between the ages of 11 and 13.
Despite the investigators’ best efforts, the victims were never identified. The analysis linked their IP addresses to the US, Sweden and the Yorkshire area.
Hicks also pleaded guilty to three counts of taking indecent photographs of children between September 2012 and January 2022.
The images and videos found on his devices were of children as young as eight and included 127 in the most severe “Category A”.
Hicks was also issued a ten-year sexual harm prevention order, and the judge ordered his digital devices destroyed.
He is serving three years with license if deemed safe for parole from prison after four years.
Acting Deputy Chief of Police Steve Parker said: “We note and welcome today’s conviction of Jason Hicks for despicable offences.
“I would like to commend the courage of the young victim in this case and her family for coming forward and reporting these appalling crimes.
“We remain committed to bringing perpetrators of such crimes to justice and those responsible are always investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“All police officers, including those in training, have a privileged role as part of a force responsible for protecting vulnerable individuals. Jason Hicks’ actions were completely wrong and illegal and he must now face the consequences.
“Our online pedophile investigation team and professional standards department acted quickly when these offenses were brought to our attention and Hicks was promptly arrested and suspended. Expedited trials for misconduct resulted in his being released soon after.
“Devon and Cornwall Police take all reports of illegal or inappropriate conduct extremely seriously.
“All officers and staff are expected to adhere to the code of ethics and ensure the highest standards of conduct both on and off duty.
“I can assure the public that the overwhelming majority of our officers and employees work diligently to keep the public safe, maintain our high standards and provide exceptional service to our communities.
“We will always take the appropriate action when standards fall below expectations and continue to learn from any instances where they do.”
Det Insp Simon Foster, who led the inquiry, added: “Devon and Cornwall Police’s Online Pedophile Investigations Team are proactive in searching for offenders, regardless of their position in society.
“This result demonstrates our commitment to protecting children in Devon and Cornwall.
“Our team conducts warrants following investigations into an individual’s online activities leading to arrests, charges, convictions and most importantly, protecting and protecting children from harm.
“Our mission is to protect children from online predators, whether it’s convicting offenders for possession of child sexual abuse material or protecting children who are being nurtured online.”
David Barnes, District Attorney for the CPS South West, said: “Hicks used social media to find and contact young girls. He pretended to be a teenager, sent explicit messages and photos, and encouraged girls to send him intimate pictures of themselves. At least one girl, as young as nine, then sent photos of herself to Hicks.
“A quick investigation by the Devon and Cornwall online pedophile investigation team, working closely with prosecutors, allowed us to build a strong case that resulted in Hicks pleading guilty to a total of 13 counts.
“Women and girls have the right to feel safe everywhere, including online. We will continue to work with police and other agencies across the criminal justice system to strengthen and enhance our collective approach to combating these appalling crimes.”