LONDON: A former South Wales Police officer has pleaded guilty to more than 100 charges of inciting children to engage in sexual activity online, reported PA Media/dpa.

Lewis Edwards, 23, of Bridgend, posed as a teenager on Snapchat to groom girls as young as 12 into sending him images and videos he covertly recorded.

He then used the recordings to blackmail his victims, forcing them to send him increasingly graphic and explicit images.

Edwards, who appeared at Cardiff Crown Court on Tuesday, was a serving police officer when his “extreme” and “predatory” crimes were uncovered.

During his arrest, Edwards’ home was searched and a number of heavily encrypted electronic devices and a blackmail manual were recovered.

The South Wales Police (SWP) Online Investigation Team said it has already identified a dozen victims but is working to identify others as a priority.

During the hearing, Edwards admitted a total of 106 offences including blackmail, inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, making a child watch a sex act, sexual communication, making indecent images of children, possessing indecent images of children, and a single charge of distribution.

He will be sentenced on August 23.

Edwards was immediately suspended from duty after being arrested and later resigned, the force said.

It added: “An accelerated misconduct hearing was held which delivered the sanction of dismissal. He has been added to the barred list, preventing him from returning to policing.”

Edwards is said to have used his job to tell his victims he would not be investigated.

Detective Superintendent Tracey Rankine, head of the Police Online Investigation Team, said Edwards’ victims “lived in fear of him”.

SWP’s assistant chief constable Danny Richards defended the force’s vetting process and said it was “recently only one of two in the country to be assessed as good by His Majesty’s Inspectorate for the way we carry out vetting of officers and staff, how effectively we protect information and data we hold and how well corruption is dealt with”.

He added: “The public will be as shocked and sickened as I am that such appalling offences have been committed by a serving police officer.

“The behaviour of Lewis Edwards only serves to damage the public’s trust and confidence in policing and undermines the work of the vast majority of responsible, hard-working police officers who serve the communities of South Wales with courage and pride.” - Bernama