A Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism officer has been jailed for five-and-a-half years for arranging to a meet a 13-year-old girl for sex in Basingstoke when he was “on duty working from home”.

Francois Olwage, a detective constable who was serving with the Met’s specialist operations unit, was convicted of three offences of grooming what he believed to be a 13-year-old girl he had met on the Lycos online chat forum, and a fourth charge of abusing his position as a police officer.

Winchester Crown Court heard that the 52-year-old was actually chatting with an undercover police officer pretending to be the girl using the username of Smile Bear, before moving to Whatsapp using the name of Caitlin.

The trial was told that after two weeks of explicit sexual conversations in October 2021, Olwage, of Stevenage, Hertfordshire, arranged to meet the “girl”, who had told him that she lived in Basingstoke.

Olwage was convicted of engaging in sexual communication with a child, attempting to cause/incite a girl aged 13 to engage in sexual activity and attempting to meet a girl under the age of 16 following grooming.

He also pleaded guilty at the start of the trial to an offence of improperly exercising his police powers and privileges in order to receive the “benefit of sexual gratification” by travelling to meet the girl while on duty.

Peter Shaw, prosecuting, told the jury that Olwage had been listed as “on duty working from home” on October 28 2021, the date he travelled by train to Basingstoke with the aim of meeting the “girl”.

Olwage was arrested at a McDonald’s restaurant in Basingstoke by two undercover officers as he was about to buy a McFlurry ice cream to take to his meeting with “Caitlin”.

When searched, the officers found in his bag two condoms, a bottle of lubricant and a packet of Tadalafil erectile dysfunction tablets.

There was also a box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates which Mr Shaw suggested was a present for the “girl”.

Olwage, originally from South Africa, told the court that he “never believed” Smile Bear was a 13-year-old girl and that he thought it was an adult “playing out a fantasy”.

The 52-year-old, who was suspended on his arrest but who remains a serving officer until a misconduct hearing on May 31, also denied any sexual interest in children.

READ MORE: Met counter-terrorism officer guilty of attempting to meet 13-year-old for sex in Basingstoke

Sentencing Olwage, Judge Jane Miller QC told him: “You were a highly regarded police officer with considerable experience.

“You were expected to uphold the law but by trying to take advantage of a vulnerable child, albeit fictional, you showed a disregard for the public trust and confidence that is held in your office.”

Adrienne Knight, defending, said that Olwage, who had served with the Met for nine years and seven years for Hertfordshire Constabulary, had submitted a letter expressing his “sorrow for what he had done”.

She said: “There can be no doubt he was trying to find a relationship, trying to find love.

“He wasn’t looking for a 13-year-old but stumbled across it because of the way the police have encroached on these websites.

“If the police hadn’t been on Lycos that day, he wouldn’t have been before the courts.”

She added: “This isn’t entrapment but this was very close indeed.”

Ms Knight said that Olwage was “vulnerable” at the time, having gone through a divorce where his partner had become pregnant by another man.

She added that he had sought counselling while in prison.

Ms Knight said that Olwage’s sister had provided a character reference describing the family’s shock and said his actions had been “out of character”.

The sister also described how he was a “caring” and “dedicated” father-of-three who became a police officer for his “desire to serve”.

Senior crown Prosecutor Marc Thompson from the CPS said: “Francois Olwage had every intention of grooming and meeting a 13-year-old girl. He denied any sexual interest in children, yet the evidence we presented was strong enough for the jury to be sure he was guilty.

“Olwage’s messages made it clear he believed he was in contact with a child. Despite this belief, he exchanged messages about sexual acts, and was grooming her. On the day he planned to meet with his victim, he abandoned his police duties to pursue sexual gratification from someone he believed to be a child.

“No actual children were in danger, but it has given us a glimpse into what this man is capable of doing when he thinks he can rely on the anonymity of the internet. This is made all the more serious because he has broken the trust of the public he has sworn to protect.”

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