Market Harborough man who groomed young girls after pretending to be teenage boy jailed for six years

Clifford Howden has been given a six-year jail sentence
Clifford Howden has been given a six-year jail sentence

A paedophile from Market Harborough who groomed five young girls on social media after he pretended to be a teenage boy has received a six-year jail sentence.

Clifford Howden, aged 36, who worked as a delivery driver in Northamptonshire, persuaded young girls to send indecent images of themselves after he bombarded them with sexually explicit messages.

Northampton Crown Court heard Howden used the MyLOL teen dating website to target victims, who lived in different locations across the country.

Matthew Lowe, prosecuting, said the age of the girls ranged from 12 to 17 years old and they were all contacted by Howden in December 2014 and January 2015 after he set up a fictitious profile for a 15-year-old boy called John.

The court heard Howden, who lived in Corby at the time of the offences, would get the girls to send their mobile phone numbers and he would then pretend to be John’s father ‘Cliff’ and would send sexually suggestive text messages.

Mr Lowe, said, in some cases, he would also introduce a third fictitious character called ‘Kevin’ who would be more aggressive, allowing Howden to “play them off against each other”.

The court heard that Howden told one girl that John had been killed in a car crash, causing her huge upset.

Howden sent pictures and videos of himself performing sex acts to his victims and persuaded the girls to send indecent images of themselves.

Mr Lowe said Howden told one of his victims that he wanted to “take her virginity” and told her she was a “hot underage girl.”

Howden also offered his victims money to have sex with him and, in one instance, offered £1,000 for 30 minutes with one of the young girls.

The court heard that Clifford did attempt to meet up with the victims but was unsuccessful.

On one occasion, he had agreed to meet one of the girls at Wicksteed Park in Kettering but she failed to show up.

Howden was finally arrested after the sexually explicit messages were uncovered by the parents of another young girl he had contacted.

Analysis of his three mobile phones revealed he had made internet searches for ‘schoolgirls’ ‘rape fetish’ and ‘school fun’.

Matthew Kirk, mitigating, said Howden was a man of previous good character and had been going through a tough period in his life when the offences occurred after his father died.

Howden pleaded guilty to 14 charges including grooming, attempting to meet a child and attempting to arrange child prostitution. He also admitted possessing an indecent image of an 11-year-old girl.

Recorder Sally Hancox, sentencing, said she believed Howden posed a “high risk” to young girls.

She said: “In the methodology and the continuation of the deception you are and will remain a person of high risk towards young women.”

Howden, of Mill Road, Market Harborough, was sentenced to six years in custody with an extra four years on licence. He must serve at least two thirds of his prison sentence before he is eligible for parole.

He will be on the sex offenders’ register for life.