A Bridgend man has appeared in court to face over 100 charges of child sexual offences as part of an investigation by the South Wales Police Online Investigation Team.
The investigation started when police received intelligence about suspicious online activity, involving the downloading of indecent images of children from the dark web.
The offender was confirmed as 23-year-old Lewis Edwards from Bridgend and identified as a serving police officer.
Following his arrest, 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 has since been charged with a total of 106 offences which include inciting children to make indecent images online and to engage in sexual activity. He has appeared at Cardiff Crown Court where he pleaded guilty. The investigation is ongoing and specialist officers are continuing to support and update his victims.
Detective Superintendent Tracey Rankine, head of the Police Online Investigation Team, said: “The scale and seriousness of the offences uncovered by our investigation is extreme and our priority has been to identify his victims and work with police forces across the UK to ensure they are safeguarded and supported.
“His abhorrent behaviour involved threatening and blackmailing his young victims who lived in fear of him. 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 him admitting the charges against him.”
Assistant Chief Constable Danny Richards said: “The public will be as shocked and sickened as I am that such appalling offences have been committed by a serving police officer. The behaviour of Lewis Edwards only serves to damage the public’s trust and confidence in policing and undermines the work of the vast majority of responsible, hard-working police officers who serve the communities of South Wales with courage and pride.
“As soon as it came to light that Edwards was a serving police officer, he was suspended and accelerated misconduct proceedings were brought against him which led to him being dismissed and barred from returning to policing.
“There is no place in South Wales Police for anyone who abuses the personal responsibility they hold as a police officer. We work hard to ensure that vetting systems are effective and the force was recently only one of two in the country to be assessed as good by His Majesty’s Inspectorate for the way we carry out vetting of officers and staff, how effectively we protect information and data we hold and how well corruption is dealt with.
“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.”