Paedophile police officer who preyed on hundreds of girls loses appeal

Custody image of Lewis Edwards
-Credit: (Image: South Wales Police)

A paedophile police officer who targeted more than 210 underage girls has lost his appeal for a shorter prison sentence. In October 2023 former South Wales Police officer Lewis Edwards was sentenced to 13 life sentences with a minimum term of 12 years for the most serious charges.

Edwards incited girls aged between 10 and 16 to send him degrading pictures and videos of themselves over Snapchat, which he secretly recorded before blackmailing many of his victims.

The 24-year-old, who had 4,500 indecent images of children, later admitted 160 counts of child sexual abuse and blackmail but still refused to show up for his sentencing hearing. Cardiff Crown Court heard he manipulated, bullied, threatened and exploited his victims – forcing them to send him indecent videos of themselves naked and abusing themselves as they sobbed and begged him to stop.

Read more: Inside the investigation that saw police unmask one of their own officers as a Snapchat paedophile

Read more: Paedophile police officer Lewis Edwards is handed a life sentence

The court heard how Edwards would add children aged between 10 and 16 years old on Snapchat while pretending to be a boy of a similar age. Once he had received one indecent image from his victim he would use it to blackmail them into sending more while threatening to send the images to friends, family, or post them online.

Many of the victims would beg the paedophile to delete the images with heartbreaking audio and video footage played in court of the victims' pleas for empathy. In one video a girl of 13 is exposing her breasts while crying and wiping her face and types: “Pls Stop… ‘I’m litro 13 pls jus del everything (sic).”

Another victim, who was just 12 years old, said: "“Just delete them please, I am sick of them now”, “Just delete them and I’ll do more”, and “Leave me the f*** alone dude, I am serious.”

Edwards responded: "“Hehe if u leave il ruin ur life rn… Now do the vids I asked for and stand further back yh x(sic)”. The victim sent images of herself masturbating while visibly in distress and crying and Edwards told her to not cover her face.

Heartbreaking victim impact statements detailed the emotional trauma the children as young as 10 years old suffered. They describe feeling "dirty and ashamed", losing confidence in relationships and trust in the police, and suffering ongoing mental health problems. One 12-year-old girl slept with a hammer under her pillow as she didn't feel safe. Their parents described seeing their children become withdrawn, unhappy, and even seeing evidence of self-harm.

Edwards, who joined South Wales Police in January 2021 and resigned during criminal proceedings, met all but one of his victims while he was an officer and had contact with his victims on 30 occasions while on duty. You can read the horrific details of how Edwards because one of Wales' most prolific paedophiles here.

Lewis Edwards
Lewis Edwards in his police interview -Credit:WALES NEWS SERVICE

On Thursday lawyers for the 24-year-old challenged the sentence at the Court of Appeal arguing the judge should not have passed a life sentence. But three judges dismissed his appeal. Mrs Justice May said: "The applicant appears to have a settled, perverse sexual interest in young girls. He has minimised the harm caused to his victims.

"In these circumstances, we can understand the judge's conclusion that it was impossible to conclude when or if the risk posed by the applicant would cease. We are not persuaded that the applicant should be differently sentenced. The sentence thus remains in all respects as it was before."

Susan Ferrier, for Edwards, said: "Life imprisonment should always be a sentence of last resort, this being a young man who at the time of the offending which he pleaded guilty to was identified as somebody who, although he had gained entry into the police force, was somebody who was not just a young man but someone who was emotionally immature." Roger Griffiths, representing the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "The sentence is not one that is manifestly excessive in the circumstances of this case."

Mrs Justice May, sitting with Lord Justice Holroyde and Mr Justice Bourne, ruled that while the case was at the "outer margins" of where a life sentence should be passed it "was not unreasonable".

Following the sentencing last year Snapchat said the offending was "abhorrent" and that it had added "extra protections for under-18s" including a pop-up warning for teens if they are contacted by people they do not know. Join our WhatsApp news community here for the latest breaking news.