'Evil' Paedophile Gang Sentenced To 107 Years

Siobhan Robbins, West of England Correspondent

A gang of paedophiles, described as "evil beyond rational understanding", has been sentenced to a total of 107 years, with a minimum of 78 years in prison.

Robin Hollyson, 30, from Bedfordshire, Christopher Knight, 35, from Manchester, Adam Toms, 33, from Somerset, Matthew Standfield, 34, from Hampshire, John Denham, 50, from Wiltshire, David Harsley, 51, from Hull and Matthew Lisk, 32, from East Sussex were convicted of more than 30 charges between them.

Judge Lambert said at Bristol Crown Court: "In the worst nightmare, from the very deepest recesses of the mind, at the darkest hour of night, few can have imagined the terrifying depravity which you men admit.

"What you contemplated and what you did involved the most horrific abuse of a baby and very young children.

"Your thoughts and your deeds are beyond human instinct and reason and are evil beyond rational understanding."

Described by prosecutor Robert Davies as "sickening, cruel, callous and depraved", the men's crimes all involved children under the age of five.

The offences included rape, sexual assault, conspiracy to rape, conspiracy to sexually assault a child under 13 and making and sharing indecent images of children.

Three of the men - Hollyson, Toms and Knight all admitted to raping a baby.

Hollyson received a 24-year prison sentence plus an extension of eight years on licence while Toms was jailed for 12 years plus an extension of four years on licence.

Knight was jailed for 18 years plus an extension of six years on licence and Stansfield received a 10-year prison sentence plus an extension of four years on licence.

Denham was jailed for eight years plus an extension of four years on licence. Lisk was jailed for four years plus an extension of three years on licence and Harsley was jailed for two years.

Police say an organised criminal network was at the heart of the abuse, where the men from across the country met online, discussed their sexual preferences for very young children and then conspired to carry out the abuse.

Some of the men drove for hours just to get a small window of time with the victims. Abuse footage was also streamed online, with images being shared worldwide.

The group has been described as "monsters in disguise" after police discovered that they became adept at grooming unwitting parents, including a pregnant mother, in order to gain access to their children.

Call logs between some of the defendants discuss drugging a toddler in order to facilitate the abuse.

In a statement, one of the victim's families said: "No family ever wants to find that their child has been the victim of abuse, nor would they ever knowingly put their child at risk.

"As a family we now need to mend - seeing the perpetrators being brought to justice is the first step."

The offences were uncovered as part of Operation Voicer which was launched last September.

Seven UK police forces worked with the National Crime Agency (NCA) and detectives around the world to bring the men to justice.

The investigation began in September 2014 when Toms was arrested by Avon and Somerset police, after admitting that he had sexually abused a child under the age of five.

As a result of these admissions, other offenders involved in the organised crime group were later identified. Officers were also able to identify three victims - a baby, a toddler and a pre-school age child.

Andrew Quinn from the National Crime Agency said: "The offending is the worst you could ever imagine. It does actually make me feel physically sick.

"I've been a police officer for 28 years and this is the worst, horrendous crime I can ever talk about."

Police say they are still trying to identify some of the victims and have put measures in place to protect 24 at risk children.