Hastings man sentenced to 14 years for sexual offences against young girls and blackmail

Harry Leigh. Picture courtesy of Sussex Police SUS-190504-122138001
Harry Leigh. Picture courtesy of Sussex Police SUS-190504-122138001

A Hastings man has been sentenced for a series of sexual offences against eight young girls and possessing indecent images of children.

Police said Harry Leigh, 19 unemployed, of Mountbatten Close, was sentenced to a total of 14 years at Hove Crown Court today (Friday, April 5).

Eight years will be sent in custody, and for the other six years he will be on extended prison release licence.

Police said he had been convicted at the same court on July 24 of one count of rape of a girl under the age of 16 at an address in Hastings.

He was found not guilty of a second count of rape on the same girl.

Police said Leigh had previously pleaded guilty to five counts of inciting four girls aged under 16 to engage in sexual activity, over a three-year period; eight counts of causing seven girls aged under 16 to watch a sexual act, over a five-year period; and three counts of making indecent images of children, including images at Category A, the most serious category.

Police said a charge against Leigh of possessing an offensive weapon, a kitchen knife, was discontinued during the trial, and he was found not guilty of one count of blackmail of a girl; and of two counts of sexual assault, against two separate girls.

He will be a registered sex offender for life and was given a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) severely restricting his access to computers and to children under 16 for 15 years.

The prosecution, authorised by the Crown Prosecution Service, followed enquiries by detectives from the East Sussex Safeguarding Investigations Unit.

Detective Sergeant Steve Shimmons, of the Hastings Safeguarding Investigations Unit, said: “We received a report from a girl that Leigh had messaged her stating that he wanted to be a serial killer and had posted some concerning tweets on twitter about wanting to kill people.

“When we received the report in February he was immediately arrested for threats to kill, charged with this offence on the authority of the CPS and remanded in custody at court.

“When his home was searched a document was found which included a list of people he supposedly wanted to kill.

“As a result we contacted everyone named in the document and advised them of this information, giving them reassurance and security advice.

“From talking to those mentioned on the list, and others, further evidence emerged that Leigh had carried out a series of sexual offences against young girls.

“These offences included sending indecent images and videos of himself to young females and then asking them to return similar images and videos.”

Police said following the gathering and review of the evidence against Leigh charges were authorised by the CPS. The evidence did not support the continuation of the charge of threats to kill but he was charged with the two rapes, the other sexual offences and blackmail.

Superintendent Emma Brice said: “Throughout this investigation we worked closely with our local authority and health partners to ensure that all necessary safeguarding steps were taken to understand what had happened with Harry and to reassure and support those involved.

“Harry Leigh is clearly a dangerous young man. We believe the sentence reflects this and helps to ensure that the public remain safe.”

DS Shimmons said: “This was a complex investigation in which a large number of victims were identified. The behaviour demonstrated by Harry Leigh was predatory against young girls. Most of the victims were then included in his list of people he supposedly wanted to kill.

“We are very grateful to the person who made us aware of the list as this information allowed us to take positive action to identify and safeguard as a precaution those he listed.

“Anyone of whatever age who is the victim of sexual offending, or who knows of someone else who has been can always contact us via 101 or online, and can make arrangements to talk in confidence to experienced investigators who can help provide access to sources of support and counselling.”