After authorities declined to press charges against him for molesting a 12-year-old just two years prior, a paedophile kidnapped and sexually molested a six-year-old girl.
In August of last year, the toddler was kidnapped by Lewis Jones, 24, when she was playing with pals in Tameside, Greater Manchester.
The victim was left bloodied and traumatised following the horrifying sexual attack she endured in broad daylight.
But a court heard Jones may not have been free to carry out the assault had police intervened sooner following his initial attack.
Jones, from Liverpool, was interviewed twice by officers, in June 2020 and April 2021, where he lied saying he ‘didn’t know it was wrong to have sex with a 15-year-old’.
He also had 102 indecent images of children stored on his mobile phone.
Despite this Jones was released under investigation, with ‘no fetters’ on his freedom.
He was only charged after he was found to have assaulted the six-year-old girl.
The court heard Jones approached the young child, offering to help her ‘make a den’, before grabbing her and taking her into a wooded area.
For nearly 30 minutes, Jones subjected her to a horrific, violent sexual attack while she was alone.
Jones only let her go after he heard her family screaming her name in a desperate bid to find her.
Her mother said: ‘When I first heard about what happened I couldn’t stop screaming. I couldn’t believe that someone had taken my little girl and assaulted her in such a horrific way.
‘I feel helpless because I wasn’t there to protect her. I feel lucky that she is still with us, we could easily have lost her that day. I feel very angry that he (Jones) has done this to us.’
Criticising the police, Judge Hilary Manley called the case an ‘egregious example’ of delays, saying their response made ‘very unhappy reading’.
She said: ‘If he had been charged when he should have been, he would not have been at liberty to abduct this six-year-old girl.
‘That’s the cold fact of the case.’
The court heard it took Merseyside Police ‘two years to build a file’, and it then ‘failed the internal police triage anyway’.
Prosecutor Vanessa Thomson told Jones’ sentencing hearing: ‘There seems to have been issues with personnel, retirement, third party records and examination of a mobile phone.’
Meanwhile, the impact of the assault on the 12-year-old girl has been ‘catastrophic’, and she is now living in care.
He convinced the young girl he was a 14-year-old boy, and tricked her into a sexual relationship.
She became distressed after finding out he was really 21-years-old at the time, and the police were alerted.
Judge Manley said it was ‘by no means the first’ case where an offender had been released under investigation and went on to commit further offences, but said it was ‘one of the most egregious examples’.
Jones admitted to kidnap and two counts of assault by penetration in relation to the attack last year, and four counts of sexual activity with a child, assault by penetration and having indecent images of children in relation to the 2020 attack.
He was handed a life sentence yesterday and ordered to serve a minimum of 12 years in prison.
The judge also demanded an explanation of the situation from Merseyside Police.
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Kameen said: ‘We acknowledge the comments made by Judge Manley in the sentencing of Lewis Jones with regards to the time it took Merseyside Police to bring charges against Jones for the offence he committed in Merseyside.
‘We absolutely owe it to the victims of sexual offences to ensure that we fundamentally develop and improve the way we work.
‘It’s only right and proper that we establish what happened in this case and therefore we will undertake a formal review of the circumstances which led to the delay in bringing charges.
‘We are committed to delivering an effective and timely justice for all victims, particularly the most vulnerable, which includes children.
‘Our thoughts at this time are with the victims and their families, who will never get over the impact of the heinous offences committed by Jones, and I would like to reassure them that I will personally oversee the review.’