A man travelling to the UK from America has been jailed after intending to meet a young girl he sexually groomed online.
25-year-old Fredis Mata, a US national, was arrested on arrival at Gatwick Airport’s South Terminal on 9 February.
During a routine check by Border Force officers, he initially claimed he had been visiting the UK to meet his 21-year-old girlfriend.
However, after further probing, Mata stated his girlfriend was 17, before finally admitting she was in fact 14.
A further interview and search revealed a large number of sex toys in his luggage, including ropes and harnesses.
“Mata is a devious sexual predator who came very close to destroying the life of a vulnerable 14-year-old girl”
Enquiries with Hertfordshire Police (Mata said he was going to stay at the Premier Inn at Welwyn Garden City) confirmed the victim as being 14 years old and living a very short distance from Mata’s intended residence.
It was also confirmed that the victim and Mata had been involved in an online relationship for several months and the nature of the conversations were very sexualised.
Mata, a builder, of no fixed address, was subsequently charged with the following offences:
- Causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity
- Engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child
- Meeting a child following sexual grooming
He pleaded guilty to all three offences at Lewes Crown Court on Thursday 1 March and was remanded in custody for sentencing.
At the same court on Thursday (12 April), he was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment, consisting of six years in custody followed by four years on licence.
His sentence was broken down as follows:
- Causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity: three years;
- Engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child: two years;
- Meeting a child following sexual grooming: one year
The defendant was also given a restraining order preventing him from contacting the victim in any way.
Detective Inspector Andy Richardson said:
“The online conversations between Mata and his victim were initiated by him, and although the victim was reluctant to engage in them at times, Mata would coerce her into participating in his fantasies through emotional threats and control.
“The victim was also forced into performing sex acts via video with Mata and his intentions upon meeting the victim were very obvious. Frighteningly, their meeting had been arranged for a specific date and time.
“Mata is a devious sexual predator who came very close to destroying the life of a vulnerable 14-year-old girl, and was only prevented from doing so by the magnificent work of Border Force officers, who proactively stopped him and referred the case to Sussex Police.
“I would urge parents to be aware of what their children are doing online as predators do exist and target vulnerable children. What may start off as an innocent encounter can quickly develop into something more sinister.
“The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre provides some good advice.”
Emma Porter, Director of Border Force South, said:
“This was an excellent stop by the Border Force officer on the immigration controls, who quickly assessed that Mata’s case warranted further investigation. That vital intervention was the crucial first step towards bringing a dangerous sexual predator to justice.
“The case is a valuable reminder of just why the checks we conduct at passport control are so important. Thousands of people pass through the immigration halls at Gatwick every day and every single one is subjected to full security checks. It is challenging work but, as this case demonstrates, work that our officers do well.”
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Half of all UK drivers think speeding is acceptable
It’s international speed week (16th – 22nd April) & police forces are trying to encourage drivers to obey speed limits & drive at speeds safe for the road environment. But new research suggests many of us think it’s acceptable to break the speed limit.
Half of all drivers, some 20 million people, believe it is acceptable to break the speed limit, new research from Direct Line Car Insurance has revealed.
The average speed at which motorists feel it is ‘acceptable’ to drive above the set limit is 26mph in a 20mph zone (29% above the limit) and 56mph in a 50mph zone (12% above the limit).
This fast and loose attitude could be why nearly two in five (39%, or 16 million Brits) of drivers have been caught speeding. Those caught typically go far beyond the speed drivers deem to be ‘acceptable’, with those caught in a 30mph zone travelling an average of 37mph (23% over the limit), in a 40mph zone they typically drove at 51mph (28% over) and those in a 50mph zone drove at 61mph (22% over).
The majority of drivers are caught speeding in 30mph zones (55%), followed by 40mph (20%) and 50mph (12%) zones. Just one in 12 (8%) of those caught speeding are caught in 70mph zones, yet these are considered the most appropriate place to speed. Motorways (37%) and dual carriageways (24%) are seen as the most acceptable roads for speeding, while just 2% believe it is acceptable to speed in traffic calming zones.
Over three quarters (78%), some 31 million adults, admit to speeding, with over two million drivers (5%) speeding on every journey they make, while a further 4.7 million (12%) say they speed on most of their journeys.
The South West is the speeding capital of the UK, where 84 per cent of drivers admit to speeding, while ‘only’ 71% of drivers in Yorkshire report that they exceed the speed limit.
When asked why they speed, half of speeders (51%) admit to doing so without realising it, but slow down when they notice. However, a third (34%) deliberately speed when the road is empty, while a fifth (19%) do so when they are running late. One in 20 (5%) admit they speed because they enjoy the thrill of driving quickly.
Rob Miles, director of car insurance at Direct Line commented:
“Speeding is one of the biggest causes of accidents and casualties on UK roads. The research suggests that it is often not deliberate, as drivers may be unaware that they may are creeping above the limit. However, speed limits are set for a reason and 20mph and 30mph zones are often around schools, hospitals and other highly pedestrianised zones, where going over the limit could prove fatal in the event of an accident.”
Despite the high numbers who speed without realising it, the majority (85%) of drivers say they check their speedometers often, with two fifths (41%) claiming to check it “very often”. Just one in nine (11%) admit to only checking their speedometer occasionally.
Speed awareness test findings
Further research conducted by Direct Line Car Insurance tested participants’ awareness of their speed when driving. They were asked to travel at speeds of 30mph and 70mph using their speedometer (control), with the speedometer covered up (blind test) and with a head-up display (head-up) which allowed them to view their speed on their windscreen.
While participants were able to keep their speed in line with the limits in the control test, they strayed significantly when unable to view their speed. In the ‘blind test’ drivers averaged speeds of 5.6mph over the limit (19%) in the 30mph zone and 3.3mph over the limit (5%) in the 70mph zone.
With the head-up display visible, drivers were much more able to regulate their speed, travelling at an average speed of 30.9mph in the 30mph zone (3% over) and 70.1mph in the 70mph zone. These findings suggest that the widespread introduction of head-up speedometers will be valuable in helping drivers regulate their speeds in urban environments, where there many factors competing for drivers’ attention.
Additional testing by Direct Line revealed that drivers travelling around a curve in the road are much more conservative with their speed. When asked to travel at 40mph around a slight curve, participants averaged just 37.6mph in the control setting – 6% below the speed limit. However, this rose by 7% to 40.1mph in the ‘blind test’, indicating a slight increase in the unawareness of speed, even though the resulting speeds were still in line with the speed limit. This also suggested that participants were unwittingly driving at a pace faster than they would normally be comfortable with, which can result in mistakes being made and accidents occurring.
Rob Miles, director of car insurance at Direct Line, commented:
“It is interesting to see that the head-up display made drivers much more aware of their speed than with a standard speedometer. The other benefit of this technology is that it improves safety as drivers are able to monitor their speed while also keeping their eyes on the road.
“In-car technology is improving constantly and, with more and more cars including these important safety features, we will hopefully start to see a decrease in the number of speeding related accidents and casualties in the future.”
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