A POLICE officer has been jailed for trying to sexually abuse an eight-year-old girl and for accessing indecent images.

Lee Cunliffe, 40, of Hindley Green, was a serving detective constable with 17 years policing experience when he began messaging a woman he believed was the mother of an eight-year-old girl on instant messaging app Kik in September 2020.

He outlined how he wanted to sexually abuse the youngster. But the woman he was messaging was in fact an undercover police officer.

In October 2020, the married father was arrested at his former address in Bolton after a police investigation revealed he had sent some of the messages from the IP address of a police-owned computer at Swinton Police Station.

He has now been jailed for eight years and four months after a hearing at Liverpool Crown Court.

Senior investigating officer Det Insp Suzanne Keenaghan said: “Cunliffe deliberately created an online profile with the perverted intention of arranging to commit a child sex offence and having indecent images in his possession for his own sexual gratification.

“This kind of offending and abuse is depraved and I hope today’s sentence sends a stark and firm warning to those who feel that they can commit these offences from behind a computer screen, we will do all in our power to identify you and bring you to justice, regardless of who you are or what you do.”

Liverpool Crown Court heard how Cunliffe used the name 'Steve S mancgent1' and told the woman, an undercover officer for the Met Police, he would visit London to sexually abuse her daughter.

During the course of the investigation, urgent reviews of his role as a detective in other investigations were carried out, including a report of distributing sexual images which had been allocated to him as the officer in the case.

When searching his Bolton home, officers found a laptop he had been using to access indecent images of children, including of a “plainly vulnerable” teenage girl who made a complaint to GMP in 2018.

They also found a notebook which included entries saying Cunliffe had a sex and porn addiction and was receiving counselling.

Cunliffe had already pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to arranging the commission of a child sex offence, perverting the course of justice, misconduct in a public office, distributing indecent photos of a child, and three counts of making indecent photos.

Deputy Chief Constable Terry Woods said: “Cunliffe’s actions were absolutely inexcusable and have undermined the very essence of policing’s core value of protecting the public and helping those in need.

“We expect our officers and staff to uphold the highest standards and Cunliffe’s deplorable behaviour fell well below what was expected of him - he both abused his position at GMP and attempted to act on his own sexual gratification.

“I want to be clear that he does not reflect our officers who come to work each day and conduct themselves with the utmost professionalism and commitment to serving the people of Greater Manchester.”