Families’ joy as paedophile’s jail sentence extended

A police custody photograph of Francis Knight
A police custody photograph of Francis Knight
Nathan Sedgewicke

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FAMILIES of the victims of a paedophile have welcomed news that his jail sentence has been increased from 16 months to four years after an appeal.

Francis Knight set up Facebook profiles posing as a teenage girl.

He then incited a number of young boys to perform sexual activities in front of a web camera for him.

The cases of six victims aged nine to 13 were outlined at Portsmouth Crown Court in May but Knight, formerly of Eastern Road, Portsmouth, and also Botley Drive, Leigh Park, admitted he’d spent two years indulging his fantasies contacting around 250 youngsters.

The 31-year-old was originally jailed for 16 months after pleading guilty to 17 offences at the court

The mother of a boy who was 13 at the time of the abuse, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said: ‘We’re over the moon about this.

‘Today is the first time I’ve seen a genuine smile on my son’s face in a year and a half. It’s a huge relief.

‘The original sentence made a mockery of it and let people think they can carry on doing these things and not get a massive punishment.

‘This shows you won’t get away with it.’

The mother of another victim added: ‘I was disgusted he got so little.

‘My son’s behaviour has changed, and he’s had really bad anxiety.

‘Victim Support came to see us recently to say Knight could be out soon. We were even thinking about moving, so this is a real relief.’

The Solicitor General Oliver Heald QC MP presented an unduly lenient sentence reference at the Court of Appeal in London against Knight yesterday.

Mr Heald QC said: ‘The actions of Francis Knight were appalling. He posed as a teenage girl online to gain the trust of young boys and then exploited them for his own gratification.

‘Child sexual offences like these are very serious, and can be difficult to detect because the culprits may never be seen by the victims and they do not use their real names.

‘So I am very pleased that Court of Appeal has increased the sentence from 16 months to four years.’

The maximum sentence for inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity is 14 years. But Judge John Dixon said at the time that the circumstances did not fit the sentencing guidelines.

Speaking after the original sentencing, victims’ families criticised it as a ‘slap on the wrists’ for Knight.