A paedophile who groomed youngsters online and shared "grotesque" images of horrific abuse later blamed his vile behaviour on alcohol and drugs.
Former Ashford resident Ross Carver took to social media platforms such as Kik to fuel his depraved sexual interest during a Covid lockdown which “seriously compounded his mental health issues”, Canterbury Crown Court was told.
Over a six-month period he engaged in multiple, explicit conversations in which he asked for indecent photos, distributed child abuse images and videos – and even encouraged others, including children, to carry out sexual acts on younger siblings and cousins.
The 33-year-old's depravity sank so low that he claimed he was the adult filmed abusing children as young as four in the videos he had shared, and even boasted of having raped toddlers.
In one chatlog he also referred to having "trained" two young girls, adding "I find it easier with littles".
The court was told however that the female relatives he spoke of having molested do not exist, and police have not identified him as being the abuser in any of the videos or images.
But although Carver's sickening assertions proved to be nothing more than the warped fantasies of someone his barrister described as being "in the grip" of alcohol and drug misuse during Covid lockdown, a judge told him at his sentencing hearing there was still "grave concerns" he posed a direct risk to children.
Carver, who now lives with his parents in Bearsted, Maidstone, admitted three offences of attempting or arranging the commission of a child sexual offence, nine of distributing indecent images of children and three of possessing indecent images.
Prosecutor Lucy Luttman said the multiple Kik chat logs and indecent images were discovered on an iPhone and Samsung seized by police during a search of his then-home in November 2020.
The devices revealed he was also a member of several chat groups with names related to his foot fetish, such as "Teen feet 10-16" and "Teen feet anything goes", and had carried out internet searches using terms including "Young feet".
In online communications between June and October 2020, Carver spoke with users who gave their ages as being 12, 13, 14 and 20. Having described himself as "laidback, bored and fancies some fun", he asked one girl, who was traced to Los Angeles, for indecent images, adding he was "one of the good guys".
"He tells her she is what he has been looking for and assures her he will pay before asking a series of questions about her feet," Miss Luttman told the court. "He specifically asks if her feet smell of vinegar."
"He was living alone in Ashford and lockdown seriously compounded his mental health issues...”
Others were asked about taking photos of younger relatives while one boy was sent a picture of an explicit image and encouraged to show pictures of his feet. Carver also offered to pay up to £15 per photograph, vowing to be "a loyal customer".
Miss Luttman said however that the ages stated by those he was grooming had not been verified and so it was not known if they were in fact children or adults posing as children.
The court heard Carver also shared 79 still and moving abuse images multiple times among 42 different chat groups between July and November 2020. They depicted children aged between four and 10 being subjected to the most serious of sexual acts, including rape.
It was in these chats that Carver detailed in "grotesque and vile" terms the sexual acts he claimed to have perpetrated and encouraged others to do the same. He described raping a toddler as "great, like a dream".
Other indecent images found on his phone which he had not distributed included ones of a two-year-old girl and some of "animated" babies.
Following his arrest, Carver confirmed he used Kik for foot fetish groups and, although he may have used the word 'teen' in some of his internet searches, he told police he never looked for child pornography.
He even claimed he had reported other users for posting what he described as "pretty bad" images.
Carver, who has no relevant previous convictions, was said to be "sickened and ashamed" of his actions and, urging the court to take an exceptional course and spare him jail, his barrister Victoria Meads spoke of the significant progress made in the past three years.
This included joining Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, obtaining work at the Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset, seeking support from child protection charity The Lucy Faithfull Foundation and being treated for previously undiagnosed ADHD.
"These offences took place when it was a totally different time of his life and he was in a totally different place," said Miss Meads.
"He has battled with depression, suicidal thoughts and self-harming issues over a significant period of time and was in the grip of alcohol and drug abuse during the lowest point in his life in 2020, a period of isolation for many people when the country was in the grip of Covid lockdown.
"He was living alone in Ashford and lockdown seriously compounded his mental health issues."
Referring to his graphic accounts of abuse he claimed to have carried out on non-existent child relatives, the barrister said they "clearly demonstrated" he was a fantasist.
"While grotesque, despicable and sickening, some of that language is indicative of his drug use at the time and his fantasist behaviour," she added.
Jailing Carver for three years, Judge Simon James said that despite "commendable inclinations" to address his offending, immediate custody was inevitable for what was an "extensive use of the internet to satiate his sexual interest in children".
"You were looking to share your own warped desires and sexual fantasies… You were making a conscious effort not just to seek out like-minded adults but also children to discuss in the most graphic terms the rape and sexual abuse of very young children," he told Carver.
"You boasted of having raped toddlers and explicitly described your own sexual abuse of children. However, your depravity didn't just involve you expressing your own fantasies but also encouraging others to abuse and violate children.
"Any right-minded person who heard the summaries of the vile descriptions associated with the imagery you were openly distributing would struggle to react with anything other than revulsion.
"Describing images of children being raped is indicative of extreme sexual depravity that, despite the fact there is no evidence of you having actually carried out, must give rise to grave concerns about you being an individual who poses a direct risk to children."
On his release from prison Carver will be subject to indefinite sex offender notification requirements and a sexual harm prevention order