Thursday 4th November 2010
By Sam Chadderton » Reporter
A DARWEN man has been accused of trying to arrange for a nine-year-old Serbian girl to be brought to England for sexual activity.
Darren Lee Cook, 25, of Birch Hall Avenue, is alleged to have offered between £100 and £500 to fly the girl to East Lancashire.
Cook denies the charge, as well as separate accusations relating to making and possessing indecent images of children.
It is the first time an investigation by the Operation Engage team, which deals with the grooming and sexual exploitation of children, has stretched to Eastern Europe.
Detectives received a call in June alleging Cook was sharing pictures over the internet.
A warrant was executed at his home and his computer equipment seized.
During the course of these inquiries, detectives started investigating claims Cook had been negotiating with a third party to pay for the services of the nine-year-old Serbian child.
The investigation team of five police officers and up to 10 Engage staff from partner agencies is focusing mainly on internet-based inquiries.
They are looking into whether Cook has ever physically visited Serbia.
Cook was this week charged with attempting to arrange for the girl to be brought to this country with a view to her engaging in sexual activity.
He is also charged with making indecent photographs involving children and possessing indecent images of children with intent to distribute them.
At Blackburn magistrates, he pleaded not guilty to all charges and was directed to stand trial at Preston Crown Court.
He was remanded in custody pending the preparation of committal papers.
Engage is made up of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council social workers, a young persons worker, Lancashire police officers and workers from Brook sexual health clinic, the NHS and charities Lifeline, Barnardo’s and the Coalition for the Removal of Pimping (CROP).
The Engage team aim to use their skills and expertise to track down offenders who groom children for sex while offering support and protection to young victims and their families.