A paedophile has been jailed for 10 years after using social media to groom children.
Rachel Fenton, who police said was known as Richard Fenton when arrested and charged, pleaded guilty to 21 child sexual abuse offences and a drug offence and was sent to a male prison.
The Guardian understands Fenton was living as a man when arrested in November 2020 and was later charged under that name.
But during the sentencing hearing on Monday, Manchester Minshull Street crown court heard Fenton had changed their name and was in the process of transitioning to become a woman.
A spokesperson for Greater Manchester police (GMP) said the force first heard about Fenton’s transition in a pre-sentence report in April.
Fenton, from Wythenshawe, was first arrested in November 2020 after an online vigilante group contacted police. They said they had been communicating with Fenton by posing as a 12-year-old girl.
Fenton tried to incite the girl to engage in sexual activity and send videos, not knowing it was a fake profile. Fenton sent indecent images to the profile and tried to encourage the “child” to engage in sexual activity with an even younger child, aged six.
Police arrested Fenton in November 2020 on suspicion of arranging a child sexual offence and on suspicion of possession of a class A controlled drug and possession of cannabis.
Around the same time, Fenton had also been in contact with the profile of another 12-year-old girl that was controlled by law enforcement. Fenton had contacted the undercover officer and carried on conversation of a sexual nature even after the believed victim revealed her young age.
Fenton sent indecent images to the operative and tried to incite the believed child to meet to engage in sexual activity and to send indecent images of herself.
After arrest, Fenton breached bail by inappropriately contacting a third “child”, who was in fact another undercover operative using a fake profile of a 13-year-old girl.
Fenton requested inappropriate images of the girl and again tried to incite the child to meet to engage in sexual activity.
Police arrested Fenton in January 2021 on suspicion of a number of child sexual abuse offences.
Fenton’s devices were seized and forensic examination found multiple indecent images of children, including a large number of child sexual abuse images and images of young children.
DC Ceri Martin from GMP’s sexual crime unit said: “Fenton is a paedophile who knowingly attempted to exploit children for his own sexual gratification. This behaviour is deplorable and completely unacceptable. The safety of our children is a top priority in Greater Manchester and I hope today’s sentencing spreads the message to anyone thinking of engaging in this type of behaviour that it will not be tolerated.
“GMP will do their absolute utmost to thoroughly investigate all reports of this type of crime and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
Fenton has been in a male prison on remand since January 2021.