Wigan policeman who tried to arrange child sex offence online warned he faces jail

A Wigan police officer who used an online chat room to try to arrange a child sex offence has been warned he could face jail.

Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 7:11 am
Updated Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 7:12 am
Lee Cunliffe from Wigan entered guilty pleas to seven offences

Lee Cunliffe, 40, entered guilty pleas to seven offences at a hearing at Liverpool Crown Court on Tuesday.

The Greater Manchester Police (GMP) detective constable admitted arranging or facilitating the commission of a child sexual offence.

The court heard that in September last year he arranged to engage in sexual activity with a child.

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A GMP spokesman said Cunliffe had spoken to an undercover officer, who he believed was the mother of an eight-year-old child, in an online chat room.

The spokesman said: “Various messages were sent between the two where Cunliffe made numerous attempts to arrange to meet up with the mother and her child in London and sent inappropriate, detailed messages.”

When officers searched his home they found devices with indecent images and videos on, the force said.

Cunliffe admitted perverting the course of justice by making two entries on police crime reports to say nothing of relevance had been found on devices belonging to a suspect.

The GMP spokesman said sexual images on devices in a case which had been closed by Cunliffe were found as part of an urgent review of his role as a detective.

He pleaded guilty to three counts of making indecent photos of a child, relating to 155 category A photos – the worst type – plus 14 category B and 58 category C.

The officer, of Hindley Green, Wigan, also pleaded guilty to distributing indecent photos of a child and misconduct in a public office, by failing to properly investigate a criminal case,

He pleaded not guilty to the possession of 227 indecent photos of children, attempting to cause or incite the sexual exploitation of a child under 13 and a misconduct in public office charge which alleged he committed offences on duty.

Arthur Gibson, prosecuting, said the pleas were acceptable to the Crown and he would ask for the counts Cunliffe denied to be left on file.

Julian King, defending, asked for sentencing to be adjourned so a psychological report could be prepared.

He said personal notes seized as part of the investigation showed the defendant’s “inner turmoil”.

Honorary Recorder of Liverpool Judge Andrew Menary QC adjourned sentencing until January 12 and released Cunliffe on conditional bail.

He said: “You must attend on the next occasion in the full expectation there may be a custodial sentence for these matters.”

GMP said Cunliffe had been suspended since his arrest last year, after details of his conversations with the undercover officer were passed to the force.

Deputy Chief Constable Terry Woods said: “Lee Cunliffe’s actions are inexcusable and have undermined the very essence of policing’s core value of protecting the public and helping those in need.

“I want to be clear that he does not reflect the vast majority of 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.”

An NSPCC spokesperson said: “In his role as a police officer Cunliffe would have been all too aware of the devastation child sexual abuse causes its victims So it is unforgiveable he would seek to cause harm on such a vulnerable member of society in this way.

“This case also highlights the need for a robust Online Safety Bill to help ensure offenders like Cunliffe cannot easily make and share indecent images of children. The NSPCC will continue to campaign to ensure the proposed legislation is fit for purpose and properly protects children from avoidable online harms.”

Children can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or through the Childline website www.childline.org.ukAdults with concerns about a child’s wellbeing can phone the NSPCC helpline on 0808 8005000 or email [email protected]