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Dating app 'catfish' leaves victim “humiliated and vulnerable”

Dating app 'catfish' leaves victim “humiliated and vulnerable”

Tuesday 02 June 2020

Dating app 'catfish' leaves victim “humiliated and vulnerable”


A 26-year-old man has become a registered sex offender after he faked a profile to pose as a real woman, so that he could get sexual attention from others on a dating app.

First-time offender, Ryan Le Couteur was sentenced to 180 hours’ community service, accompanied by an 18-month probation order, and made to pay £5,000 in compensation to his victim, who said his actions left her feeling “humiliated and vulnerable.”

The 26-year-old appeared before the Magistrate’s Court via video link.

Legal Adviser Simon Crowder, prosecuting, summarised the details of the case for the Court.

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Pictured: The offences relate to the fake profile made by the defendant to pose as a real woman.

He explained that the victim was first made aware of Le Couteur’s offending when she came across an unsent email in her outbox, containing around 50 “private” photographs of herself, which was addressed to the defendant.

Later on that day, Mr Crowder said that the victim received messages on Facebook from a man and woman whom she didn’t know. 

They were messaging her with a level of familiarity she didn’t understand, so when she enquired further, it became apparent they thought she was the same person they’d been speaking to on the dating app ‘Tinder’. 

However, the prosecutor stated that the victim “does not have a Tinder account” and therefore “somebody had obviously made a profile with her details and was actively using it.”

It transpired that Le Couteur was responsible for the Tinder account, and that he’d had to make a fake Facebook account with her details in order to make the dating profile. 

Mr Crowder continued saying that Le Couteur admitted “he’d been speaking to five or six men and five or six women of all ages”. The defendant also admitted that he’d sent “private pictures” of her to some of the people he’d been speaking to through the app.

In addition to the messages the victim received on Facebook, she was also engaged in conversation with someone she said was a stranger whilst in town.

The man, who was much older than her, said that they’d been talking on messaging platform WhatsApp for a period of time and this conversation had become “explicit”. 

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Pictured: The victim was approached by strangers who said they had been speaking with her extensively on a dating app and a messaging platform.

Reading extracts from the woman’s victim personal statement – a testimonial in which the victim of a crime can articulate the effect an offence has had on them personally – Mr Crowder relayed that Le Couteur’s actions “left [the victim] feeling humiliated and vulnerable”.

She said that she was “paranoid about who the defendant has spoken to, and what photographs people may have seen.” She also described having difficulty sleeping and suffering “multiple nightmares”.

She continued by saying that she “still think[s] about the crime every single day” and, describing what Le Couteur did as “sickening,” she expressed a desire for him to understand the danger of his actions.

Advocate Lorraine McClure, representing Le Couteur, acknowledged that the offences “are indeed very serious” and that her client “recognises this” as well has “how his actions have severely affected” the woman and others. 

Through his lawyer, he expressed his “deep remorse for the hurt and distress he has caused the complainant”, and the Court was told that he had written a letter of apology to communicate this. 

The defence lawyer said that due to Le Couteur’s “insecurities” and other issues “he was unable to process the feelings he was feeling” at the time of the offences and that he “was not thinking straight.” 

Advocate McClure continued by saying it’s been “difficult for my client to come to terms with the reason why he acted this way” and that this was “out of character” for him.

The defence lawyer emphasised Le Couteur’s “excellent character” prior to this offending and his “solid” employment record.

Advocate McClure invited the Court to impose an 18-month probation order and a community service order to allow Le Couteur to “remain in the community” and “continue to work on his issues.” 

Pictured: the victim was left feeling humiliated and vulnerable

Handing down her decision, Magistrate Bridget Shaw described Le Couteur’s actions as “very serious” and remarked that, from the report put together by the Probation Service, the defendant was only demonstrating “a minimal understanding” of the gravity of his actions.

Magistrate Shaw told Le Couteur that he had “violated” the woman’s privacy and that “she has no idea who has seen intimate photographs of her” or the nature of the conversations he had with strangers whilst pretending to be her.

Dubbing his behaviour as “wholly reckless”, the Magistrate reminded Le Couteur that “you could be sending [the photographs or messages] to anyone” who “could be high risk offenders”. 

The judge also deemed that Le Couteur did this “for [his] own sexual gratification."

Calling him “at this stage... a dangerous young man”, the Magistrate explained that whilst she considered the offences were “serious enough for custody,” she wanted to balance his punishment with ensuring he doesn’t repeat this kind of offending in the future.

Therefore, she imposed an 18-month probation order so that Le Couteur can access the support he needs to “address this” and “reduce the risk of [him] ever doing this to anyone ever again.”

Le Couteur was also sentenced to 180 hours’ community service which is the equivalent of 12 months’ imprisonment.

The Magistrate ordered Le Couteur to pay £5,000 in compensation to his victim and a restraining order was imposed to restrict his contact with her for the next five years. He was also informed that his registration as a sex offender will be in place for at least five years before he can apply to be removed.

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