Image Credit: Ian Taylor
A former student at the University of York has been sentenced to 10 months in prison after sending sexually inappropriate messages to underage children on the internet, according to a report by the York Press on Wednesday.
Omer Mustafa, who is 20 and previously studied law at the University, plead guilty to four charges of possessing indecent images of children, and five charges of attempted sexual communication with children, including sending messages to a 13-year-old boy, and repeated sending of nude images to a 13-year-old girl of her 16-year-old brother.
It emerged during the trial that at least some of the offences were committed at the University. Mustafa’s room at the University was searched in July 2018 following a tip: the search yielded an indecent image on his computer, which provoked further investigation by York law enforcement.
The defendant’s ten month prison sentence was eventually suspended after the court heard that Mustafa’s crimes were the result of moving to a “Western lifestyle” from his sheltered life in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The defence told the court that Mustafa had “delayed puberty” and was sexually immature. Furthermore, the defence argued that there was no proof in some cases that the children Mustafa had contacted online were under the legal age for consent, and may have been adults posing as children.
In addition to his suspended sentence, he will be placed on the sex offender’s register for ten years, receive a ban from working with vulnerable children or young adults, and engage in 20 days rehabilitation exercise.
The University was unable to confirm how Mustafa had left the institution and what punishments had been imposed on the 20-year-old following his appearance at court. A University spokesperson was able to say, however, that the individual is no longer attending the University, and that York has “a number of disciplinary sanctions available, including suspension or expulsion, if a student is found to have committed a serious criminal offence." It added that "anyone involved in criminal behaviour should expect the full force of the law to be applied."
This is not the first time that York students have been warned off possession of child pornography. An email circulated to all students in October of last year said that although students enjoyed relatively unrestricted access to the internet on campus, “illegal” extreme or child “pornography” would be “logged and blocked where technically possible” and reported to the police, as may have happened in this case. Speaking to Nouse, a University spokesperson added that "to protect the integrity of the University's computing facilities and the work of users, the University monitors the use of its computing facilities and will take appropriate action where necessary. Students and staff are reminded of their responsibilities when using the internet."