Man assumed false identity online to send sexual messages to underage girls

A 38-year-old man pretended to be around half his age to contact teenage girls whom he bombarded with sexual messages, a court heard.

Grant Morris, 38, of Voeside, Bressay, admitted three charges of sending sexually explicit messages to underage girls via social media, when he appeared at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday.

Procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie said Morris started contacting his first victim in December 2017, when she was aged 14 and was broadcasting over a livestreaming app.

Morris started chatting to her, claiming to be 19-year-old Grant Merryfield from Edinburgh.

He was made aware of her age from the outset but they continued communicating via Snapcat and text messages, the court heard.

Initially, Mr MacKenzie said the messages were “innocuous” and not sexual.

By May 2018, however, he said the communications became “extremely graphic” and sexually explicit.

Over the following months, thousands of messages were sent on an almost daily basis, not all of which were sexual in nature.

All the while, Morris pretended to be 19-year-old Grant Merryfield.

The court heard the girl, who now took Grant Merryfield to be her boyfriend, introduced him via social media to two of her close friends who were also under 16.

Morris began messaging the friends, while continuing to use his false identity.

The court heard his messages to them also became flirtatious and sexual.

Mr Mackenzie said in one message he told the girl he wanted to “tear all her clothes off and have sex with her”.

Mr MacKenzie said the sexually explicit messages became a “regular part of their almost daily communications”, despite her saying she felt  “uncomfortable”.

With the third girl, the court heard Morris’s communications had started off non-sexual, but before long he was repeatedly asking her for phone sex.

Mr MacKenzie said Morris also asked the girl to send him pictures while showering, which made her feel uncomfortable.

He said police became involved after the two later victims told the first girl they thought her “boyfriend” was cheating on her and sent her some of the incriminating messages.

She told Morris she wanted nothing more to do with him and also alerted her father, who happened to be a police officer.

Mr MacKenzie said the matter was raised first with police in Edinburgh before being transferred to Shetland in March 2020.

After lockdown related delays, officers interviewed Morris in September 2020.

Mr MacKenzie said he made a “full and comprehensive admission”.

He acknowledged Morris had made no attempt to meet the girls and had even made excuses not to.

Officers found no indecent images of children in his possession. 

Morris’s defence agent, who was appearing via video link, said he would reserve mitigation for when the case resumes for sentencing next month.

Sheriff Ian Cruickshank adjourned the case until 8th December for criminal justice social work reports and a restriction of liberty assessment.

He told Morris he was subject to notification requirements according to sexual offence legislation for a period that would be determined at sentencing.


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