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6 January 2023 | Podcasts | Article by Danielle Vincent

24 Hours in Police Custody: sexual grooming

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This week’s 24 Hours in Police Custody episode theme is centred around a missing person’s case, which quickly escalated into an alleged ‘sexual grooming and multiple abuse’ case when the survivor told her story.

Bedfordshire Police were working on a missing person’s case, which quickly escalated into an alleged ‘sexual grooming and multiple abuse’ case when the survivor told her story.

The perpetrator, who was 21 at the time, had offered the girl somewhere to stay after falling out with her mother, and raped her numerous times during her stay.

Police explained that, when he had the teenage girl in his house, threatened to hurt her with physical violence or harm himself if she refused his advances.

Eventually, the young girl managed to get out of the house and gave a statement to police, revealing that she had been a victim of sexual abuse.

As a result, Dell was arrested and pled guilty to two counts of rape, two counts of sexual assault, two breaches of his sexual harm prevention order, and one count of possession of an indecent image of a child.

Number of girls information of perpetrator’s phone was shocking, one person repeatedly targeted –

In the episode we saw police go through the perpetrators phone which shockingly revealed a huge number of children and young girls he was targeting via social media platforms.

Also, other potential offences which could of resulted – he had filmed himself in sexual acts with these girls and then threatened to hurt them – coercive control …

He has numerous indecent images and videos of his victims too, and was also sending indecent images of himself too.

Grooming tactics befriending girl’s mother –

Grooming Tactics: What is sexual grooming?

In this particular case that the episode centred around, we saw the perpetrator befriend the victim’s mother as a grooming tactic.

We also saw with this perpetrator many self-harm scars visible on his arm. The victim revealed that he would threaten to harm himself if she did not comply with his demands, on some occasions he did, and would cut himself in front of her in order to make her feel guilty and do as he wanted to.

Common signs include:

  • Building a relationship
  • Gaining power
  • Keeping it a secret

Highlighting that grooming can take place in many different ways and to many different people – it is not always obvious –

As Bedfordshire Police highlight on their social media appeal following the episode, any child or young person can become the victim of grooming, no matter what their sex, ethnicity or background.

The signs of grooming aren’t always obvious, and perpetrators will often go to great lengths not to be identified.

They will often try to isolate the young person from their family and friends or ask them to keep the relationship secret, buy them expensive gifts, such as designer clothes, or let them have access to alcohol and drugs.

The perpetrator in the episode even had a girlfriend who was completely oblivious and unaware of what was going on.

PC Heather Hutchinson, a specialist trained officer in Bedfordshire Police’s Rape and Serious Sexual Offences team, who features in this evening’s episode, said:

“In this particular case, the offender was in his 20s, but pertaining to be younger. At first glance, he doesn’t look like a predator, but was meeting with countless young girls, subjecting them to sexual assault and violence, encouraging them to send explicit photographs, infiltrating their homes and grooming their family members by building that trust so he could plan his attack and move onto the next victim. Sexual violence starts long before we think it does and encouraging young girls to send explicit photographs of themselves can be the start of something more sinister.”

Clare’s law

The perpetrator’s partner – at the time of filming the episode of the Channel 4 programme – made a ‘Clare’s Law’ request and we saw in the episode detectives from the force’s Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO) team speaking to her and disclosing his criminal convictions.

Clare’s Law, often known officially as a Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme or similar, designates several ways for police officers to disclose a person’s history of abusive behaviour to those who may be at risk from such behaviour. It is intended to reduce intimate partner violence.

Under the Clare’s Law scheme an individual or third party such as a family member can ask the police to check whether a current partner has a violent or abusive past.

If records show that an individual may be at risk of domestic abuse from a partner, the police will consider disclosing the information. They can also consider proactively notifying someone under the scheme if they have concerns for their safety.

Detective Chief Inspector Craig Laws from Bedfordshire Police commented:

“This episode of 24 Hours is a powerful illustration of Clare’s Law in action. Throughout the programme his current partner speaks positively about Dell and his treatment of her but is disgusted by the criminal behaviour and abuse disclosed by our detectives. We know how difficult it can be for people in abusive relationships. These are often fraught with emotions and complex pasts, plus many abusers will use psychological manipulation and grooming to make a victim feel trapped and powerless.”

This highlights how important Clare’s Law is and how the influence it has is literally life changing, crucially preventing further victims.

Outcome: 14 years in prison, life on sex offenders register –

We saw at the end of the episode the perpetrator receive an extended sentence of 14 years, nine of which he will spend in prison. He will also be on a sex offenders list for the rest of his life.

After the episode aired, Bedfordshire Police issued a statement about grooming and urged people to stay vigilant and look out for the signs. They also specifically appealed to parents to come forward if they believe their child may be a victim of grooming, highlighting the key things to look out for.


Source: NSPCC

  • Online grooming crimes have risen by more than 80% in 4 years
  • Data from 41 UK police forces shows an 84% rise since 2017/181, taking the total to more than 27,000 offences since 2017
  • Meta-owned platforms were used in 38% of offences where the means of communication was known. However, Snapchat was used by groomers more than any other platform, in a third of offences where a site was recorded (33%)
  • Grooming is increasingly becoming a cross-platform problem, with police recording 70 different apps and games involved in grooming crimes in the last 12 months alone. Multiple social media sites were often used in the same offence.


Many people on social media have praised the victim in this episode for her bravery for coming forward.

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch. You can contact Alan Collins at [email protected] or Danielle Vincent at [email protected]

Author bio

Danielle Vincent

Senior Associate

Danielle is a Senior Associate in the Abuse Specialist Personal Injury Department. She specialises in representing survivors of abuse and has experience in bringing claims against a number of institutions as well as individual abusers.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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