Aug 20 2013
A man who groomed a 12-year-old girl on the internet then raped her in a tent in his back garden has been jailed for nine years.
Thomas Leedham admitted child abduction and twice raping the young girl whom he arranged to meet after making contact on a social media site.
Police praised the young victim's "bravery and courage" during their inquiries which had "undoubtedly saved other children being abused at the hands of Leedham".
In a "calculated" act, the 19-year-old persuaded the girl to stay the night with him earlier this year before assaulting her, West Mercia Police said.
She was reported missing at 3.30pm on January 31, and found together in the tent with Leedham by officers the following morning.
Leedham, of Hunderton Road, Hereford, admitted a further count of assaulting a child under 13 by penetration and another charge of making an indecent picture of a child.
Jailing Leedham at Worcester Crown Court on Monday, his honour Judge Toby Hooper QC also ordered him to sign the sex offenders register indefinitely and also made him the subject of a sexual offences prevention order. He has also been banned from working with children or vulnerable people for life.
Det Con Jamie Bullock, who led the investigation, said: "We are satisfied that the sentence handed to him reflects the seriousness of his offending. This was a calculated crime on his side, the extent of which was evident in the way he groomed his young victim, who he specifically targeted after perceiving her to be vulnerable.
"On behalf of the investigation team, I would like to thank the victim for the bravery and courage she has shown throughout the investigation, which has undoubtedly saved other children being abused at the hands of Leedham.
"Thankfully, due to his lengthy sentence, he no longer poses a danger to youngsters and upon his release he will be closely managed by the police as a sex offender."