A Bridgend man has been sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of over 160 child sexual offences following an investigation by the South Wales Police Online Investigation Team.
Enquiries first began in December 2022 when 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 23-year-old Lewis 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.
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.
Edwards, who is now 24, was charged with a total of 161 offences which included inciting children to make indecent images online and to engage in sexual activity. He pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to life with a minimum of 12 years when he appeared at Cardiff Crown Court.
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 said: “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.”