Today, Thursday 12th October, a 35 year old man from the Strabane area was sentenced at Dungannon Crown Court for 152 child sexual abuse offences.
The offences included; sexual communication with a child, causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, causing a child to watch a sexual act and making an indecent photograph or pseudo of a child.
His offending spanned over a five year period from 2016 to 2021 and involved 40 young male victims, ranging from 10–17 years of age.
Gerard Murray was sentenced to 10 years. He will serve five years in prison and five years on licence. He will be placed on the Sex Offenders Register for an indefinite period and will be subjected to a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) indefinitely. Murray will also be placed on a barring list preventing him from working with children and vulnerable adults.
Detective Chief Inspector Lorraine McCutcheon said: “Murray targeted young boys, as young as eight years old, posing as a teenage girl on Snapchat. He manipulated them into sending indecent images and videos of themselves that he would then record and save for his own sexual gratification.
“He has caused serious and long-lasting harm on the many boys that he preyed upon and their families. I want to thank them today for being so incredibly brave and assisting our investigations.
“Crimes of this nature are not tolerated in our society and we as a Police Service will never stop working hard to bring perpetrators to justice.
“If you have suspicions that someone you know or live with is engaging in any sort of sexual communication with a child please contact 101 or 999 in an emergency.”
The Police Service of Northern Ireland want young people who may have been targeted or abused in this way to come forward and report to them. The service has a team of specially trained officers who will investigate reports thoroughly and provide support throughout the process.
Detective Chief Inspector Lorraine McCutcheon adds: “We want parents/guardians and young people to be aware of how offenders like Murray operate online so that they can spot the red flags of predatory behaviours.
“It is so important to engage in regular conversations with children about the potential dangers online to ensure they can enjoy the internet safely.
“We’re asking parents and guardians of young people to stop and think – do you know who they are talking to online?
“We have put helpful tips on our website including, how to set and check privacy settings, location and parental controls and checking your child’s direct messages and chat functions.”