AN “evil predator” has been jailed for 10 years for posing online as a teenage girl to induce 401 boys to send naked photos of themselves before sharing the images with some of the victims’ friends and family.

James Utting pleaded guilty at Winchester Crown Court to 43 offences of possessing and distributing indecent images of children and engaging children in sexual activity relating to 11 victims.

The 36-year-old, who had gathered thousands of images, also asked for a further 116 offences against 54 other victims to be taken into consideration but the court heard that there were a total of 401 individual victims on his computer dating between 2014 and 2018.

The victims were aged between eight and 15 and from around the country including Southampton, Humberside, Grimsby, Sussex, Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Barnsley and Sheffield.

Judge Jane Miller QC ruled that Utting, of St Michael’s Road, Aldershot, posed a danger to children and sentenced him to 10 years in custody with an extended licence period of five years.

She said “It was both devastating and highly distressing for the boys, it will affect all of their lives. 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.”

Matthew Lawson, prosecuting, told the court that Utting had created false social media profiles on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat using the image of a 15-year-old girl.

The defendant would then entice his victims to send naked pictures of themselves and of them committing sex acts on themselves by sending them pornographic images purporting to be from the girl they believed they were in contact with.

Utting would then blackmail the boys by threatening to share the naked pictures of the boy to force them to send further images.

Mr Lawson said that Utting told police that he“lost control of himself”.

Richard Martin, defending, said that Utting had a “troubled life” and had been diagnosed as autistic.