A 46-year-old man has been jailed for a total of eight years after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a teenage boy he had groomed over the internet.
Michael Berkley-Matthews of Friars Meadow, Weybread, near Harleston appeared at Norwich Crown Court on Monday where he was sentenced by Judge Holt. He will also be placed on the sex offenders register for life.
Berkley-Matthews had previously been convicted by a jury on Tuesday, June 24 2014 of sexual activity with a child, meeting a child following grooming and breach of a sexual offences prevention order (SOPO).
An investigation was launched into Berkley-Matthews after concerns were raised over the victim’s interest in a magic club. Enquiries revealed the victim had been befriended by Berkley-Matthews after meeting him online via a social networking site.
The victim had an interest in magic and claimed he had been promised potential subscription to a secret magic club by Berkley-Matthews who the victim knew as ‘Mike’.
The online contact led to a number of meetings in Diss where, on one occasion, on December 19, 2013, the victim was sexually assaulted. As a result Berkley-Matthews was arrested at his home address on Tuesday, January 14.
Detective Constable Gill Lacey said the incident had left the victim feeling traumatised by what had happened to him.
“The incident has had a profound impact on a young boy who was duped into believing he could become a member of a magic group. Berkley-Matthews used the victim’s interest in magic to gain his trust before abusing him. Hopefully such a sentence will serve as a warning to other potential sex offenders that they will be brought to justice and we will support victims in every way possible.”
DC Lacey also urged parents not to be afraid of checking with their children around their use of the internet and social media.
“Many parents can feel apprehensive about being too nosey about their children’s lives particularly when they hit the teenage years. But this is the time when they need to adopt prying eyes and become much more mindful of the dangers the online world can bring.
“Young people can believe they are talking to someone of their own age when in fact they are often chatting to someone much older.”
A spokesperson for the police added: “Parents should set rules around internet use and help their child to understand that strangers online are still strangers and they need to keep their personal information private. Help them understand that it is never a good idea to meet someone in the real world who they first meet online but, if they do, then they should take a parent or trusted adult with them.”
Parents can visit the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre’s (CEOP) ‘Thinkuknow’ website at www.thinkuknow.co.uk/parents for more information.