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Horrified councillor warns of online dangers after family's encounter with Facebook paedophile

October 2, 2020 8:26 PM
By Gregory Ford in Grimsby TelegraphGregory Ford

Cllr Beasant is calling for more work to be done in schools to educate children about safety online

Cllr Beasant's school age relative was targeted by an online predator
Cllr Beasant's school age relative was targeted by an online predator. Picture posed by model (Image: PAPeter Byrne/PA Wire)

A North East Lincolnshire councillor is pleading with parents and grandparents to check their children's online activity after his own family's brush with a Facebook paedophile.

East Marsh councillor Stephen Beasant told a community scrutiny meeting on Thursday the frightening story of his young family member's encounter and the swift police action that prevented it becoming a "horror story".

Councillor Beasant said he was worried the current work from home environment could be making the problem worse with potential offenders spending more time unsupervised online.

East Marsh Liberal Democrat Councillor Stephen Beasant
East Marsh Liberal Democrat Councillor Stephen Beasant (Image: Jon Corken/Grimsby Live)

Cllr Beasant said: "I had a call from the police and was told that a young member of my family had been contacted on Facebook by someone that was only pretending to be their age.

"The profile was known to the police and I was obviously worried in case pictures or videos had been exchanged but we've talked to the family member and it doesn't look like it reached that stage.

"You obviously worry because you hear so many horror stories about these sort of things but luckily it looks like we've avoided one this time."

Councillor Beasant called for more long term work to be done in schools to educate young people about online safety suggesting at the moment there was a reliance on "one week wonder" lessons.

Head of Young Peoples Support Services at North East Lincolnshire Council Paul Caswell said:

"It's important that we don't just put a short term plaster on this wound, I agree that we really need to focus on the long term solutions to this problem.

"It is no secret that teachers aren't keen to talk about issues of personal resilience and things related to sex crimes which is why we need support from pastoral staff and outside organisations.

"We are planning to be going into schools in partnership with Humberside Police and other relevant organisations to tackle this."

Humberside Police chief inspector Paul French said:
"I'd fully support what the councillor has said and I recognise the issue, we're definitely looking to do more work in this area to help keep our children safe."

Councillor Beasant said he was happy to hear that more work would be done with education and took the time to praise police response and outreach.

Cllr Beasant said:

"I have to say I was really pleased with how the police have handled this because a matter of hours later the profile had disappeared from Facebook.

"When I spoke to the family member I found out they had over 5000 friends on Facebook, I had no idea that young people accept request 'willy' nilly like that.

"I'll be honest it really frightened me and in some respects it really taught me a lesson.

"I was amazed to find out how many friends young people have on Facebook but there is so much pressure on them these days to get likes and watches on their videos.

"I'm pleading to Parents and Grandparents out there is to check on what your children and grandchildren are doing online, talk to them about it."