Shop worker who groomed girl, 14, with sweets and drinks before sexually abusing her is jailed
A shop worker who groomed a 14-year-old girl by offering her free sweets and drinks before sexually abusing her has been jailed for 11 years.
Shibin Vimala Santhakumar, 45, was sentenced for child sex offences that took place while he worked in the Windmill Avenue shop in Kettering, Northamptonshire.
He began grooming his victim in September 2020 when he gave her extra change after she paid for items, as well as free sweets and soft drinks.
The grooming progressed and led to him sexually abusing her inside the shop and at his home address.
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The girl reported the offences to Northamptonshire Police in November that year and an investigation was launched, leading to Santhakumar's arrest.
In his first police interview, Santhakumar denied the allegations but police were able to recover footage taken from the store’s CCTV hard drive that showed some of the crimes.
He was later charged with nine offences – three counts of sexual activity with a child, four counts of inciting sexual activity with a child, and two counts of possession of indecent images of children.
Prior to trial, Santhakumar pleaded guilty to some of the charges but continued to maintain his innocence in regard to the offences that had taken place at his home.
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He was found guilty of all charges by a jury following a four-day trial at Northampton Crown Court in August and in September, he was sentenced at the same court to 11 years in prison and a further two on licence.
Lead investigator DC Chris Waterfall, from Northamptonshire Police’s Child Protection Team, said: "As an adult who had regular contact with children through his job, Shibin Santhakumar abused his position to groom this girl into sexual activity.
"Her support throughout our investigation has been vital and I want to commend her for the courage she has shown.
"This case shows that sexual offences against children do not often start with an immediate offence.
"Sandhakumar gradually built trust with this girl through offering her free items and money off her purchases. It then escalated into this abuse."