Ex-teacher jailed for sex blackmail
A science teacher who blackmailed teenage girls into sending him sexual images and money has been jailed for six years.
Zahid Akram, 37, of Redditch in Worcestershire, trawled the internet looking for victims across the UK, whom he targeted using a series of fake profiles.
Akram promised four girls, aged between 13 and 18, they could "trust" him and persuaded them to send images of themselves in their underwear.
Once Akram had the photographs, he used them to blackmail the girls into sending more explicit images and pay for phone credit for his mobile.
Exeter Crown Court heard the respected teacher threatened to rape the girls and send the pictures to parents, friends and their schools, if they did not comply.
Judge Francis Gilbert QC, the Recorder of Exeter, jailed father-of-two Akram for six years, telling the teacher his actions were "vile".
"You were a school teacher, a married man with your own daughters," the judge said.
"It is right you have no previous convictions but you targeted young girls who were still at school, knowing of their susceptibility and vulnerability.
"You treated them in what only can be described as in a vile way, on two occasions threatening them with rape."
The court heard Akram targeted teenagers across the UK, from Northern Ireland to the south of England.
Prosecuting, David Sapiecha, told the court: " The defendant trawled the internet, he basically sought the victims out.
"These were internet facilitated offences. While he was a teacher at a secondary school, there is no suggestion of offences being committed there, nor of pupils being affected."
Mr Sapiecha said the first victim, aged 16, was approached by Akram - posing as a 19-year-old called Curt Renshaw - on social networking site Badoo in September 2011.
"He then asked her for photographs of her in her underwear," Mr Sapiecha said. "She said no a few times but eventually agreed.
"She took photographs of herself in her underwear. That was the weapon he needed to use against her.
"The speed and aggression of what happened next is quite chilling."
Within three days, Akram had contacted the girl with her parents' first names and threatened to post the images on a pornographic website and to her school.
He demanded "more pictures - whatever I ask - kinky stuff and credit for my mobile" in messages to the terrified girl and told her he was "the devil" when she asked for his real identity.
She agreed and he instructed her to use her webcam to pose in a series of outfits he dictated, while lying on her bed.
"He threatened if she didn't comply he would put a profile with her name and her details on a website basically asking for men to come and rape her," Mr Sapiecha said.
A draft version of the profile said the girl had a "fantasy where she would want to be pulled into a car and held at knifepoint".
By January 2012 the girl was "incredibly embarrassed and quite frightened" and agreed to buy a £10 phone top-up to stop Akram distributing the images.
The second victim, aged 13, met Akram - posing as Jason - via email in November 2011, and sent him a photograph of her in her underwear.
Mr Sapiecha said Akram replied with a list of demands for pictures, or the images already sent would be posted to various internet sites and placed in her local newspaper.
"She sent 20 photographs," Mr Sapiecha said. "The photographs were first in her underwear, then topless, then bottomless, then in the outfits he requested."
Akram blackmailed the girl over a three-month period, forbidding her from going out with friends and threatening to "meet" her if she did not comply.
The girl later agreed to buy Akram £40 of phone credit as she was "extremely worried about the photographs that had been sent," the court heard.
Akram's third victim, aged 18, willingly sent him sexual pictures on Badoo in 2010 as she "trusted him" but was left horrified when he replied "I know where you live."
She agreed to send more explicit images after Akram told her "he would come up, burst through the door and rape her", Mr Sapiecha said.
Akram then pretended to be a woman who was being harmed when the 18-year-old victim did not meet further demands.
"The victim believed that threat and believed the threat of him coming around and raping her," Mr Sapiecha said.
Akram's final victim, aged 17, was contacted by Akram - pretending to be a teenager called Rick - online.
He first demanded a photograph of her face, then body pictures and threatened to post the images in her local area, telling her "everyone will know who you are".
Akram was arrested in January 2012 but insisted he was just using the social networks to flirt with women as his marriage was failing.
He later admitted four counts of blackmail and one count of causing or inciting a child to take part in prostitution or pornography.
Mr Sapiecha added: "It has had a profound effect on his victims - crying for weeks, the upset, their embarrassment. The underlying motive was sexual."
Representing Akram, who resigned from his teaching post on August 30 last year, Lawrence Wilcox said his client was a "devoted father" to his children, aged seven and 11.
"What is very apparent is that this behaviour was entirely out of character for Mr Akram," Mr Wilcox said.
"After his studies he worked as a teacher for 10 years and there was never any sniff of impropriety whatsoever in the course of his professional career."
He said Akram had spiralling debts of more than £40,000 and was in poor health.
Judge Gilbert ordered Akram to sign to the Sex Offenders' Register and imposed a Sexual Offences Prevention Order for at least 10 years.