A man has been sentenced to 12 years in prison with an additional ten years on licence for a series of sex offences against children committed between 2017 and 2020.
Thomas Rawlings, aged 35, from Lockleaze in Bristol, pleaded guilty to 33 charges in relation to nine children, including: counts of causing or inciting a girl aged 13 – 15 to engage in sexual activity; taking, making and possession of indecent images of children; paying for the sexual services of a child aged 16 – 17; engaging in sexual communication with a child and breach of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO).
Rawlings groomed and exploited his vulnerable victims, lying to them about his age, making out he was up to 20 years younger than he really was and leading them to believe that they were in genuine relationships with him.
On sentencing Judge Patrick said that Rawlings was a dangerous, obsessed and persistent paedophile who targets young people for sexual gratification and a feeling of power. Judge Patrick commented: “You scared your child victims and caused them emotional torment. You ripped families apart. You have worsened the lives of the vulnerable. You have ruined trust. You have caused some to feel suicidal.”
Rawlings, a Registered Sex Offender, was first convicted in 2012 on 15 counts of making indecent images of children between 2009 and 2011. On conviction in 2012 he was made the subject of a Sexual Offences Protection Order. The SOPO was device focussed, giving the police the power to examine his devices and ensuring that should he access the internet he retained his search history.
In November 2020 Rawlings was arrested on suspicion of causing or inciting the sexual exploitation of girls in connection with his relationship with four girls aged 14 – 16. This was following Avon and Somerset Police receiving referrals from the National Crime Agency. The subsequent forensic examination of his devices led to a child victim focussed Sexual Harm Prevention Order being sought in December 2020 in order to protect one of the children he was suspected of harming and to stop him from contacting or harming others.
Following Rawlings’ arrest, a 17-year-old victim made contact with the police concerned for the welfare or her ‘boyfriend’ who she believed to be 20 years old at that time. Her contact with him started when she was just 13 years old and Rawlings led her to believe that he was 14 years old at that time. At first the contact was online, but this later progressed to physical meetings, with Rawlings travelling to various parts of the country and booking hotels for them to meet in, where Rawlings groomed and exploited her into a sexual relationship with him.
Unknown to the victim, Rawlings was also in a ‘relationship’ with another child who was 14 when he first made contact with her and who believed him to be 18 years old.
Senior Investigating Officer Detective Inspector Adam Knee from the Internet Child Abuse Team said: “Rawlings is a calculated and determined offender who went to great efforts to commit appalling offences against children and hide that offending. The victims have shown incredible bravery and resilience throughout this investigation and have been a credit to themselves and their families. Thankfully we have been able to support them throughout and will continue to do so through our partners if required.
“I would also like to praise the efforts of the Investigating officer Martin Parsons, supported by PC Mel Furey and DS Helen Holt and many others. The evidence they gathered against Rawlings was so overwhelming that his guilty plea was through lack of choice rather than remorse. The sentence passed down today reflects the gravity of the offences committed by him.”
Officer in the case (OIC) Martin Parsons was given a Crown Court Commendation by the judge in recognition of the vast amount of work that has gone into identifying Rawlings’s victims. Judge Patrick said: “A dangerous paedophile has been quickly identified, arrested, charged and sentenced. The amount of work that Martin Parsons has undertaken is obvious. It is easy to forget the distressing nature of the things with which he has had to deal. He is to be commended for what he has achieved.”
For more information about how to support someone who may be showing signs that they are having inappropriate thoughts towards children, or for support about your own thoughts and behaviour, visit Stop It Now.