Today (Wednesday 25 October) former South Wales Police Officer Lewis Edwards, aged 24 from Bridgend, has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 12 years for blackmailing underage girls to send him explicit photos of themselves.
Edwards was caught with 4,500 indecent images of children and was in contact with 210 girls in total.
Images of 207 girls were recovered from multiple devices. He would threaten the girls, telling them he would publish their images or harm their families if they didn’t do what he asked. He pleaded guilty to 160 charges of blackmail and child sexual abuse, as well as one count of refusing to provide pin codes to some of the devices seized.
In February of this year when the investigation was in its very early stages, head of the Online Investigation Team for South Wales Police, Detective Superintendent Tracey Rankine contacted the Hydrant Programme to request a peer support session from our Review Team who work across England and Wales supporting forces with investigations at any stage. Peer support sessions offer the opportunity to discuss, benchmark and compare various elements of an investigation against national best practice. It is a supportive process to enhance work already ongoing. During the sessions, discussions explore if there are resources, tactics or learning which can be deployed to get the very best outcomes for vulnerable victims.
Detective Superintendent Rankine said: “Having the opportunity to speak to the Hydrant Programme team, was invaluable. At this early stage in the investigation, we were unaware of the scale of offending we were about to uncover but the time spent during the peer support session gave us insight into how other forces had approached similar investigations. The Hydrant team were able to put us in touch with colleagues from these forces who were generous with their knowledge and support. We were also able to discuss national best practice and were made aware of agencies who could provide additional resources which enhanced our operation.
“Since the initial peer support session my team have continued to benefit from the support Hydrant provides, and the learning they share as part of the CSE Taskforce."
Det Supt Rankine continues "If you are reading this as an investigator or police staff member and you work in child protection and abuse investigation, I can’t recommend the support Hydrant provides enough, you will certainly benefit from the peer support and peer review sessions they offer.”
Rob McKinnell, Hydrant Programme’s Learning, Review and Peer Support Manager said “It was a privilege to meet with Det. Supt Rankine and her team and see the incredible work they had already carried out as part of this investigation. During the time spent in South Wales we had a wide ranging and productive session which ultimately led to the team making contacts with other forces and support agencies which enhanced an already excellent investigation.
“Today the focus should rightly be on the victims and survivors who bravely came forward and gave evidence which has resulted in the conviction of this man who committed sickening crimes against vulnerable children. My team and I are here to support forces who are progressing similar investigations, or other involving the abuse of children in the pursuit of justice."
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