Former police officer jailed for life after admitting more than 160 ‘abhorrent’ online child sex offences

A former officer at South Wales Police has been jailed for life after admitting more than 160 offences of child sexual abuse against victims as young as ten years old.

Oct 26, 2023
By Paul Jacques
Lewis Edwards

Lewis Edwards, 24, posed as a teenage boy to target young girls between ten and 16 grooming them into sharing indecent images of themselves.

Edwards, who used Snapchat to contact his victims, would manipulate the young girls into sending explicit photos and videos.

Despite the victims’ pleas for him to stop and threatening to report him to the police, Edwards continued to take advantage. When they refused, he would become increasingly threatening, blackmailing them into complying out of fear he would expose them.

Lucy Dowdall, Specialist Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said: “The extent of Edwards offending is incomprehensible, my thoughts remain with the victims who have suffered his abuse.

“Lewis Edwards abused the trust placed in him as a serving police officer, targeting children online in an avalanche of sustained sexual abuse, grooming them and forcing them to satisfy his own sexual needs.

“Edwards tactics of threatening and blackmailing his victims shows the extent of his depraved actions and lack of remorse towards those he targeted.

“He believed he was above the law, and his role as a police officer would protect him from investigation and prosecution. He was wrong – together the CPS and South Wales Police worked tirelessly to build a strong case against him and see him plead guilty.

“There is nowhere for sexual predators to operate or hide. Our Organised Child Sexual Abuse Unit is a specialist unit dedicated to prosecuting child sexual abuse, and we will continue to work closely with the police to bring offenders to justice.”

Edwards, from Bridgend, was a serving police officer when he engaged in his predatory behaviour, having met one of his victims in the course of his work.

He was caught after South Wales Police received intelligence about suspicious bank transactions and online activity, linked to the downloading of indecent images of children from the dark web.

An IP address was linked to an address in the Bridgend area and further checks led to the offender being identified as Edwards – a serving police officer.

In the following days, a warrant was executed at his address in Bridgend and in February 2023 he was arrested and remanded in custody.

The Police Online Investigation Team recovered heavily encrypted electronic devices alongside a blackmail manual.

Having gained access to his devices, the extent of his offending became evident, with Edwards contacting 207 girls in a sustained campaign of abuse between February 2019 and February 2023.

Edwards was immediately suspended from duty and resigned. An accelerated misconduct hearing was held which delivered the sanction of dismissal. He has been added to the barred list, preventing him from returning to policing.

The CPS said investigators and prosecutors carefully pieced together the evidence to build a strong case against Edwards, leading to him pleading guilty to 162 offences at earlier hearings in May and September.

Detective Superintendent Tracey Rankine, head of the Police Online Investigation Team, said: “Our priority has been to identify the victims from Snapchat usernames and work with police forces across the UK to ensure they are safeguarded and supported. The scale and seriousness of the offences identified by our investigation is extreme.

“His abhorrent behaviour involved threatening and blackmailing the young victims who lived in fear. Our investigation has involved forensically examining encrypted computer equipment and mobile devices which led to the recovery of shocking material. The strength of this evidence has resulted in Edwards admitting all charges.”

Assistant Chief Constable Danny Richards added: “The crimes committed by Lewis Edwards are despicable and the public will be as shocked and sickened as we are that such appalling offences were committed by a serving police officer.

“As soon as we knew the offender was a serving police officer, Edwards was suspended and sacked at a misconduct hearing which was held at the very earliest opportunity to remove him from policing.

“His behaviour only serves to damage the public’s trust and confidence in policing and undermines the work of the responsible, hard-working police officers who serve the communities of South Wales with courage and pride.

“There is no place in South Wales Police for anyone who abuses the personal responsibility they hold as a police officer.

“I understand there will be people asking how Edwards could have joined the police at the same time he was committing these terrible crimes.

“At the time of him joining South Wales Police his vetting was clear and there was nothing to indicate that he was involved in such abhorrent offences against children.

“Our number one priority is to protect the public so if anyone has any information about the safety of young or vulnerable people or those who pose a risk in our society then I urge them to come forward and report it to us.

“I am grateful for the work of our investigation team who have brought Edwards to justice and ensured his victims have been protected from further harm.”

Edwards was sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court on Wednesday (October 26) to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 12 years.

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