November 2019

Portsmouth sex offender who contacted children online is back before magistrates

Francis Knight

A notorious sex offender who contacted 250 youngsters online has been back in court.

Francis Knight, of Cornwallis Crescent, Landport, was jailed in May 2013 for 16 months before appeal court judges in London increased his sentence to four years in August that year.

Now Knight, 37, has admitted breaching a sex offences prevention order between August 1 and August 30 this year.

He deleted his history on the Grindr gay dating app this summer.

At Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court last month he was handed a 12-month community order with 20 days’ rehabilitation activities.

He must complete 60 hours’ unpaid work and pay £170 in court costs.

As reported, Knight had posed as a teenage girl online before inducing the young boys he contacted to perform sexual activities over a webcam.

Cases of six victims aged nine to 13 were detailed at Portsmouth Crown Court but he admitted contacting 250 children over two years.

August 2013

Facebook paedophile Francis Knight sentence ‘unduly lenient’

A man who posed as a teenager on Facebook to urge children to perform sex acts online has had his 16-month jail sentence increased to four years.

Court of Appeal judges agreed the original term imposed on Francis Knight was “unduly lenient”.

The 31-year-old, from Portsmouth, posed as a teenage girl and befriended boys on the social network.

He incited eight of them to perform sexual activities in front of a web camera so that he could see them.

Appeal judges heard how Knight, from Eastern Road, incited more than 200 other youngsters to perform in a similar way, although they did not do so.

‘Non-consensual’

He pleaded guilty to offences involving inciting or attempting to incite children to engage in sexual activities and making indecent photographs of children.

He was sentenced at Portsmouth Crown Court on 24 May.

Lady Justice Rafferty, Mr Justice Griffith Williams and Mrs Justice Thirlwall increased his sentence after hearing submissions from Solicitor General Oliver Heald that 16 months did not reflect the scale of the offending.

Mr Heald said the offences were “non-consensual” because the victims were under 13 and they did not know the true identity of the person on the chatline.

After the ruling, he said: “The actions of Francis Knight were appalling.

“He posed as a teenage girl online to gain the trust of young boys and then exploited them for his own gratification.

“Child sexual offences like these are very serious and can be difficult to detect because the culprits may never be seen by the victims and they do not use their real names.”

Announcing the decision of the court, Lady Justice Rafferty said: “In victim impact statements and other means of expression, many victims reported feeling bad, scared, sick and angry.”

May 2013

Pervert jailed for webcam abuse of boys

  • Francis Knight, 31, hacked into or cloned teenage girls’ Facebook accounts

  • Used them to pose as a girl and contact young boys online, court heard

  • One innocent girl whose account Knight hacked was forced to change schools

  • Knight admitted contacting around 250 young boys over two years

  • ‘Calculated and artful’ former Tesco worker jailed for 16 months

A paedophile who hacked the Facebook accounts of teenage girls so he could prey on and abuse boys as young as nine has been jailed.

UP TO 250 children could have been contacted by a paedophile who persuaded boys as young as nine to perform sex acts into a webcam.

Sick Francis Knight, 31, created and also cloned online personas of teenage girls to lure the boys into carrying out his sick demands.

The cases of six victims aged nine to 13 were outlined at Portsmouth Crown Court but Knight, formerly of Eastern Road, Portsmouth, and also Botley Drive, Leigh Park, admitted he’d spent two years indulging his fantasies contacting around 250 youngsters.

The court heard that even after he was arrested and charged the former Tesco worker carried on offending.

Prosecutor Jane Terry said Knight’s modus operandi was to send friend requests, under the cloned identities, to a group of people who knew each other, lulling the victims into a false sense of security as they believed they had friends in common.

Jailing him for 16 months overall, for 18 counts – including inciting children to engage in sexual activity and making indecent images of children – Judge John Dixon called Knight’s actions ‘calculated and artful’.

He added: ‘These incidents caused considerable distress. What’s worse is that in those online exchanges you had with those boys you deceived them with a one-way webcam.

‘In effect you could see them but they could not see you.

‘You were masquerading as teenage girls and, if that was not bad enough, if you had not been served enough of a shock, you then went on to commit a further eight offences whilst on bail, of exactly the same kind.

’It is difficult to assess the worst aspect. The deception certainly left them (victims) ashamed of themselves, and their parents distressed and upset.’

He said Knight was a ‘manipulative individual’ with a predilection for young children.

Parents of some of the boys, from the Portsmouth area, sobbed as they heard evidence of what Knight made their children do on camera.

One mother was so distressed she had to leave the courtroom.

They heard Knight even made some boys perform sex acts with friends for him to watch, pretending he was a girl.

He stole the identity of one teenage girl known to one of the victims by hacking into her Facebook page.

She has now had to change schools because of the stigma attached to what happened, despite being entirely blameless.

Detectives from Netley’s paedophile unit interviewed all those Knight had contacted.

Around half were from Hampshire with the rest from the Manchester area.

Detective Sergeant Richard Wheeler said it had been a long and complex operation carried out with the help of Portsmouth and Hampshire children’s services departments and Greater Manchester Police.

He said they had to sift through vast amounts of technical data to identify and protect the victims.

He added: ‘It should not be forgotten that the effect of this offending can be both damaging and long-lasting. I would therefore like to praise the children who have shown courage throughout the course of this investigation and provided evidence through statements or interviews to form the basis of the prosecution case.’

For advice on keeping children safe online go to hampshire.police.uk/internet/advice-and-information/general/online-safety.