A man described as an “evil predator” has been jailed for posing online as a teenage girl to entice hundreds of boys into sending naked photos of themselves.
James Utting, from Hampshire, pleaded guilty at Winchester Crown Court to 43 offences of possessing and distributing indecent images of children.
The 36-year-old also pleaded guilty to engaging children in sexual activity relating to 11 victims.
He has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Utting had gathered thousands of images and also asked for a further 116 offences against 54 other victims to be taken into consideration.
He lured young boys into sending naked pictures of themselves before sharing the images with some of the victims’ friends and family.
The court heard there were a total of 401 victims on his computer dating between 2014 and 2018.
The victims were from around the country including Humberside, Grimsby, Sussex, Leeds, Bradford, Southampton, Wakefield, Barnsley and Sheffield.
Judge Jane Miller QC ruled that Utting posed a danger to children and sentenced him to 10 years in custody with an extended licence period of five years.
She said his crimes were “both devastating and highly distressing for the boys”, adding “it will affect all of their lives”.
Judge Miller added: “I hope they will be able to pick themselves up after your sentence and move forward, I hope they understand it wasn’t their fault.”
Utting created fake social media profiles on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat using the image of a 15-year-old girl, prosecutor Matthew Lawson told the court.
He would then induce his victims to send naked pictures of themselves and of them committing sex acts by sending them pornographic images purporting to be from the girl he was posing as.
Utting would then blackmail the boys by threatening to share their naked pictures to force them to send further images.
The court heard he followed through with the threat in some cases, sending photos to school friends and family members of 19 of his victims.
Prosecutor Mr Lawson said some of the victims could be seen “crying and begging” in videos sent to Utting urging him to stop.
One victim, aged 14, said in a victim impact statement that “paranoia was everywhere” after the images were shared with pupils at his school, adding he felt “low to the point where there was no meaning to life, I felt there was no tomorrow”.
The victim’s mother described Utting as an “evil predator,” and added of her son: “To watch him experience shame, hurt, paranoia, anxiety and depression was so hard.
“As a mother this has broken my heart and changed my view of the world forever.”
Utting told police that he had become “addicted” and “lost control of himself”, as well as describing his own actions as “cruel”, Mr Lawson said.
Defence lawyer Richard Martin said Utting had a “troubled life” and was autistic.
Detective Constable Wendy Harrison, of Hampshire Police, said outside court: “Utting’s offences were so prolific and caused so much trauma and distress to so many young people right across the country.
“I just hope this sentence can now allow those young people and their families to move ahead with their lives.”