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HMA v Joshua Hunter

At the High Court in Edinburgh on 19 September 2018, Lady Scott sentenced Joshua Hunter four years and four months' imprisonment after the accused pled guilty to causing a child to participate in sexual activity online, the taking of and possession of indecent photographs of children, and charges of extortion.

On sentencing, Lady Scott made the following statement in court:

“Mr Hunter, you have pleaded guilty to a course of criminal conduct between November 2014 and May 2017 involving 13 charges which fall to be viewed in two groups: firstly, seven charges of extortion and two charges of attempted extortion; secondly, charges of causing a child to participate in sexual activity online (charges 1 and 2) and the taking of and possession of indecent photographs of children (charges 6 and 7).

“The charges of extortion were conducted over a period from January 2015 to May 2017 and involved nine complainers. The pattern in each charge was essentially the same.

“Put simply, you set up a false female profile online. You then contacted a complainer through a social media platform and by way of requests and inducement you obtained  images – pictures and videos – of the complainer  engaging in sexual conduct and sexual acts.

“You then placed each complainer in a state of alarm and apprehension by threatening to publish the images obtained – or by threatening to distribute copies of the images to the complainer’s family or friends – unless your demands for payment were met.

“I am satisfied that these extortion charges demonstrate a carefully constructed and calculated plan.

“You created a false sexualised profile from a real profile. You placed this across numerous social media platforms.

“You requested or persuaded your victims to engage in sexual acts likely to be viewed as degrading and you did this because these images were most likely to result in payment to prevent publication.

“Your primary motivation was financial gain. I am not satisfied that there was much in the way of sexual gain or gratification involved. In total, you obtained approximately £1,700.

“This was a callous course of conduct persisted in over a period of about two years and you clearly caused considerable distress and anxiety to a number of your victims. On the other hand, I take into account there was no threats of violence involved.

“You have also pleaded guilty to two charges in contravention of section 21 and section 31 of the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 – namely of intentionally causing a child to participate in sexual activity by inducing him to perform sexual acts upon himself, to record these and to send the recordings to you, whilst again you posed as a female friend online.

“These sexual offences involved a child aged from 12 to 13 years and these are the most serious charges on this indictment. You contacted this child using your false female profile and exchanged messages with him.

“This led to your intentionally causing him to engage in sexual conduct and exploiting him to obtain sexual images.

“You must have known the corrupting and damaging effect this must have had.

“In addition you have pleaded guilty in charge 6 that you did take or permit to be taken indecent photographs of a child in contravention of section 52(1)(a) of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 and in charge 7 you pleaded guilty to having in your possession  indecent images of children in contravention of section 52A of the 1982 Act. These included 21 images and five videos involving the child complainer in charges 1 and 2.

“Separately, police recovered six images and five videos involving naked or abused children. The youngest child seen in the images was about three years old and in the videos the youngest child appeared about eight years old.

“All of the children involved must have sustained long term damaging effects to their social and sexual development.

“On the other hand, I have regard to the fact there was a small number of images involved and none were assessed at category A level of seriousness.

“You are only 23 years of age. You appear before me as a first offender. You have no history of sexual offending or of violence.

“I take into account that you have been badly damaged by a childhood of neglect and violent abuse. And more recently you have experienced traumatic abuse.

“The defence psychological assessment suggests you suffer from chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and possibly the neurodevelopmental disorder known as ADHD and suffered these conditions at the time of your offending.

“This background has resulted in your self-harming and you have had lengthy problems with anxiety and severe depression for which you still receive treatment.

“At the time of these offences, I accept you had little resources and your mental health was precarious and still is.

“You have tendered an early and detailed plea of guilty. You have been co-operative and candid to the court and to the author of the social work report.

“The report is generally in positive terms. It describes you as accepting a high level of responsibility for your conduct and you have shown insight as to the consequences of your conduct to the victims.

“Balancing all of these factors I have concluded due to the seriousness of the criminal conduct involved here a custodial sentence is necessary. I sentence you as follows:

“On the charges of extortion, that is charges 3, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and the attempted extortion in charges 4 and 5, I sentence you to a cumulo period of two years’ imprisonment, which period is discounted from three years’ imprisonment to reflect your early plea. 

“On charges 1 and 2, I sentence you to a cumulo period of two years and four months, which period is discounted from three years and six months to reflect your early plea. 

“On charges 6 and 7, I sentence you to imprisonment for one year on each charge. I do not apply a discount on these charges in view of the low utilitarian value involved. 

“The sentences on charges 6 and 7 I order to run concurrently with the cumulo sentence imposed in respect of charges 1 and 2.

“Finally, in respect of the cumulo sentence imposed on charges 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13, I order this sentence to run consecutively to the cumulo sentence imposed on charges 1 and 2.

“This is a total period imprisonment of four years and four months, which is backdated to 17 August 2018.

“You will have the opportunity in prison to undertake the accredited programme – Moving Forward and Making Changes whilst in prison. Whether or not you undertake this will no doubt be a factor for the parole board in respect of their consideration for your early release. You should also in prison be able to access psychological support and I urge you to undertake that programme and the psychological help offered.

“In respect of charges 1, 2, 6 and 7, you will be required to register on the Sexual Offences Register for a period of 10 years.

“In terms of the 2003 Act I will order intimation of these convictions to Scottish Ministers.”

Sentencing Statements

HMA v Paul Johnson

Thursday, 15 November, 2018

HMA v Brian Docherty

Monday, 12 November, 2018

HMA v Stephen Kinnaird

Thursday, 8 November, 2018

HMA v Raymond Oldham

Wednesday, 7 November, 2018

HMA v Simon Quin

Tuesday, 6 November, 2018