A HOMELESS man has been jailed for seven years after admitting grooming a schoolgirl and inciting her to begin a sexual relationship.
Banti Singh from Walsall, west Midlands was arrested by police in September last year after the 14-year-old girl’s family raised concerns with officers about her behaviour and contact she was having with an older man.
Inquiries at the family home caused officers to investigate the true identity of a man who’d made contact with the teenager via Facebook, calling himself ‘Velly Boy’.
Subsequent inquiries identified him as a Londoner who was travelling up to meet the youngster in Walsall.
On September 4 the girl was reported missing by her mother and despite her return later that day she then went missing again a week later, only to be found outside the Premier Inn in Walsall with a man, who ran off when approached by the girl’s family.
Police subsequently interviewed the teenager who admitted to a sexual relationship with the man she knew as Randeep, who had first contacted her online when she was 13.
The following month the girl’s relatives followed her to a local train station and contacted police to raise concerns that she may be meeting the older man again - leading officers to quickly visit the station and detain a man nearby, on suspicion of grooming.
The suspect turned out to be Singh, now aged 30, who had travelled from the capital to meet the teenager.
Despite denying a relationship, officers found a bag he’d tried to hide in the police car on his arrest which contained toiletries, a piece of paper containing passwords to the teenager’s social media accounts and mobile phone, as well as a fake passport.
Detective Constable Alli Wilkins, from the force’s Public Protection Unit, said: “Singh ultimately controlled this young girl over a period of eight months, from the point when he first made contact on Facebook through to his arrest.
“He took over the girl’s phone, deleted contacts he deemed unsuitable, engaged her in a sexual relationship - despite knowing her to be underage - and invented a false identity, claiming he was two years younger and worked in a restaurant.
“In reality Singh had entered the country illegally, had no known home, visa or job, and claimed he slept in temples in London most of the time.
“Thankfully the girl’s family raised the alarm, allowing a thorough investigation to be launched to identify and detain the man responsible for the girl’s exploitation.”
Singh, of no fixed address, was charged with 12 counts of sexual activity with a child and three counts of child abduction in October 2014 and entered guilty pleas during an earlier hearing at Wolverhampton Crown Court.
He was handed a number of concurrent sentences at the same court on Tuesday, 24 March, for the sexual activity offences, resulting in a total of six years for those crimes.
Singh was also sentenced concurrently for the times he took the child without authority, culminating in a one year term overall. He will also be placed on the sex offenders register for life, as well as being served with a Sexual Offences Prevention Order.
The See Me Hear Me campaign is raising awareness of the signs of child sexual exploitation amongst parents, professionals and young people themselves. Supported by West Midlands Police, the region’s seven local authorities and children’s charities, the See Me Hear Me website explains how to spot the signs of exploitation and where to go to get help. Find out more at http://www.seeme-hearme.org.uk/