Paedophile jailed after grooming boys via Minecraft online game
A paedophile loner who groomed two boys via popular online computer game Minecraft has been jailed for more than two years.
Adam Isaac befriended his two victims on the game - that allows players to construct things from 3D blocks - before asking them sexual questions and for indecent photographs.
The 23-year-old, who lived at home with his parents, was already on the sex offenders' register after being cautioned in 2015 for possessing a "small number" of indecent images of children.
Rachel Knight, prosecuting, told Merthyr Crown Court that after first making contact on Minecraft with the two boys, Isaac switched to text messaging, Snapchat and Skype to continue conversations with them.
"He bought them gifts via PayPal to use in the game and the Crown say he did this to win their trust, in effect grooming them," she said.
"During the Skype conversations the defendant moved the conversation towards sexual matters and also asking them to send pictures over Snapchat."
The court heard Isaac - who never attempted to meet his two victims - was apprehended when the first boy's father discovered the online conversations and alerted police.
He was arrested in January last year and was "entirely frank" with detectives, Miss Knight said.
"He described himself as a 22-year-old bisexual male who had never had a relationship with anyone," she said.
"He accepted that the swopping of pictures was for his own sexual gratification. He admitted sending gaming gifts to the boys but he denied he had any intention of meeting up with them in real life."
She added: "There was a significant degree of planning, there was grooming behaviour and there was a significant degree of difference in age."
At a previous hearing Isaac had pleaded guilty to five charges of causing or inciting child prostitution or pornography, one charge of causing or inciting a child in sexual activity, one charge of engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child and one charge of possessing indecent images.
The court heard the indecent images - five pictures and three movies - were of a third boy who had also been playing Minecraft. He has never been identified.
All the offences took place between August 2015 and January 2016, against two boys aged 12 and 14.
Sue Ferrier, defending, said Isaac was bullied at school and had been playing online games since he was 12.
"He didn't fit in and has been rejected from many different areas of life," she said.
"He found the online world more fascinating than the real world. The reality is that he does not have any good friends, he just has associates.
"He is a young man who needs help and it is a shame that he didn't receive that help when his offending first came to light as a teenager.
"He is isolated, he never goes out at all, he is always indoors."
Isaac, of Maesgwynne, Cefn Coed, Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, was jailed for two years and eight months.
Judge Richard Twomlow said: "Over a period of five months you befriended two young boys aged 12 and 14.
"Contact was initially made because you all played Minecraft, which is a game that is very popular with teenagers. It is an innocent site concerning construction.
"You therefore knew that you were on a site that was very far removed from the conduct that you later engaged in.
"This was clearly all a grooming process. These were serious offences over a period of time. They are aggravated by the fact in March 2015 you were given a caution for the possession of indecent images of children.
"People have to understand the seriousness of behaviour like yours and it will result in a prison sentence."
Isaac was placed on the sex offenders' register for life and made subject of an indefinite sexual harm prevention order which places restrictions but does not permanently exclude his internet use.
Minecraft was created by Swede Markus Persson, who is now a billionaire, and officially launched in 2011. It has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide.
Lucy Dowdall, a senior crown prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "Adam Isaac is guilty of preying on the innocence of his young victims for his own gratification.
"He befriended his victims online and gained their trust, before enticing them into sharing inappropriate information and material with him.
"This was a planned and calculated course of action on the part of Isaac and it is right that he has been made to face up to what he did in a criminal court.
"This case serves as another reminder to anyone who has caring responsibilities for children to be alert to online safety matters so that wherever possible, children are prevented from coming into harm's way.
"Nevertheless, we hope this case also sends a clear message that where offences have taken place, the criminal justice agencies will act to bring online offenders to justice."
Barnardo's chief executive Javed Khan said: "This is a very serious case that highlights the need for parents and children to understand the dangers of online gaming.
"Social media and online games like Minecraft are now central to our children's lives but they provide a channel for abusers to easily reach and influence both boys and girls online."
An NSPCC spokesman added: "It's every parent's nightmare that their children will be targeted and groomed by abusers while they are online.
"Online safety is one of the major 21st century child protection challenges and we know the internet is used as a gateway by abusers to commit hundreds of offences against children each year.
"We believe education is the key to keeping children safe online and social media and game producers should improve their safety features so children can enjoy the internet without being vulnerable to predators like Isaac."