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Paedophile Aylesford bell ringer jailed for sexually abusing child

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A senior bell ringer who groomed a girl for sex has been sent to prison.

Darren Elphick was the 'tower captain' at St Peter and Saint Paul's Church in Aylesford until his arrest in 2018.

Darren Elphick has been jailed. Picture: Kent Police
Darren Elphick has been jailed. Picture: Kent Police

But secretly Elphick, who at the time lived in Hartnup Street, Maidstone, began a sexual relationship with a child.

Prosecutor Kathryn Hirst told Maidstone Crown Court how he bought his victim expensive gifts and paid to top up her mobile phone.

But the court heard when worried family members quizzed him about how close the two were and reminded him of her age, Elphick responded by lying and said he just viewed her as his sister.

And one of the reasons he paid for the child's phone was so he could arrange to abuse her in secluded areas or at his home, telling the trusting victim to keep their relationship a secret.

The court heard how police were then alerted and quizzed Elphick, now 50, about the two years of abuse.

Darren Elphick admitted sexual activity with a child
Darren Elphick admitted sexual activity with a child

The victim – now an adult – later told police how she suffers from flashbacks, dreams and feelings of being unsafe.

Ms Hirst said: "She now realises that what happened to her was abuse and involved being groomed.

"She commented that she now feels sad for her younger self and feels part of her childhood has been taken away."

Judge Robert Lazarus told him: "It ought not be said but an adult has a duty to protect a child they encounter from harm but you didn't do this.

"In fact, you went out of your way to harm your victim and that harm has a very long reach indeed... there was grooming activity.

'Elphick manipulated a child for his own sexual gratification, caring little for the pain and suffering he would inflict upon her at the time and in the future.'

"Not surprisingly her experience with you has coloured her ability to form relationships and she doesn't feel safe with older men.

"Regrettably she has, at times, believed it was all her fault."

Elphick, of Station Road, Aylesford, admitted four charges of sexual activity with a child and possessing indecent photographs and movies of a child and having four extreme pornographic pictures depicting a human having sex with an animal.

The judge heard how one of the sick sex pictures was taken with his victim's knowledge.

The former BP worker who is now a full-time carer for his parents was jailed for six years.

His barrister Stephen Shay said: "He accepts now that this relationship should never have happened. As he has told me: 'This has happened and I can't turn back time'. He is now remorseful."

An NSPCC spokesman said: “Elphick manipulated a child for his own sexual gratification, caring little for the pain and suffering he would inflict upon her at the time and in the future. We commend the victim on speaking out about her experiences and hope she is receiving the support she needs to move on with her life.

“Adults who wish to report abuse no matter how long ago, or have concerns about a child, can phone the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk, while children can contact Childline any time on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk.”

Elphick has also been made subject to a sexual harm prevention order.

Detective Constable Hannah Crittenden, of the Paedophile Online Investigation Team, said: "Elphick gained the trust of a child and exploited this trust in the worst possible way, by subjecting her to repeated abuse.

"The victim was warned to keep the abuse secret and not to tell anyone, but thankfully in recent years has found the courage to come forward and help us ensure Elphick has now been brought to justice.

"I would urge anyone who has been a victim of any sexual offence to remember that it is never too late to report this to police.

"We have a team of specialist officers who work relentlessly to ensure that offenders like Elphick do not evade justice, just because a crime may have happened a long time ago.

"We will always treat any information with the upmost confidence and sensitivity."

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