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Manchester police detective jailed for trying to arrange vile sex acts with girl, 8
12 January 2022, 23:15
A serving detective in Manchester who tried to arrange for the abuse of an eight-year-old girl has been jailed after he was unmasked as a paedophile.
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Lee Cunliffe, 40, was a serving officer for Greater Manchester Police (GMP) in September 2020 when he began messaging a woman whom he believed was the mother of an eight-year-old girl on instant messaging app Kik, Liverpool Crown Court was told on Thursday.
Arthur Gibson, prosecuting, said the detective constable used the name "Steve S mancgent1" and told the woman, who was actually an undercover officer for the Met Police, how he would travel to London to perform vile sex acts on the child.
But the mother was an undercover cop involved in a sting operation to snare paedophiles.
Recorder of Liverpool, Judge Andrew Menary QC, said: "The type of conduct you were contemplating with this very young child could hardly have been more serious."
Police investigations revealed Cunliffe had sent some of the messages from a police-owned computer at Swinton Police Station, and he was arrested in October 2020, Mr Gibson said.
In a search of his home in Bolton, officers found a laptop he had been using to access indecent images of children, including of a "plainly vulnerable" teenage girl who made a complaint to GMP in 2018, the court was told.
Mr Gibson said the girl had alleged her boyfriend had taken indecent images of her and distributed them without her knowledge.
Cunliffe, who was a trainee CID at the time, was allocated to the case and the suspect was arrested and his computer and phone were seized.
He later wrote an entry on the crime log stating there was nothing on either device relating to the offence, the court was told.
Digital forensics had confirmed sexual images were present on devices that had been seized.
Senior Investigating Officer Detective Inspector Suzanne Keenaghan, from GMP's Online Child Abuse Investigation Team, said: "Cunliffe deliberately created an online profile with the perverted intention of arranging to commit a child sex offence and having indecent images in his possession for his own sexual gratification.
"This kind of offending and abuse is depraved and I hope today's sentence sends a stark and firm warning to those who feel that they can commit these offences from behind a computer screen - we will do all in our power to identify you and bring you to justice - regardless of who you are or what you do.
"I would encourage anyone affected by this case to contact police, or our partners, to report any abuse or exploitation so that the relevant authorities can act on it."
Deputy Chief Constable, Terry Woods, said: "Cunliffe's actions were absolutely inexcusable and have undermined the very essence of policing's core value of protecting the public and helping those in need.
"We expect our officers and staff to uphold the highest standards and Cunliffe's deplorable behaviour fell well below what was expected of him - he both abused his position at GMP and attempted to act on his own sexual gratification.
"I want to be clear that he does not reflect our officers who come to work each day and conduct themselves with the utmost professionalism and commitment to serving the people of Greater Manchester.
"Quite frankly, we will not stand for this behaviour and we are prepared to take robust action whenever any offending comes to light - whether that be by proactively identifying it ourselves or responding to reports made to us.
"I would encourage our officers, staff and the public to report any actions which breach our professional standards."
Disciplinary action under the Police Conduct Regulations will now follow, Greater Manchester Police said.
Greater Manchester Victims' Services provide emotional and practical support to anyone affected by crime and are a confidential service. The service can be contacted by visiting the website on www.gmvictims.org.uk or calling 0161 200 1950.