A PAEDOPHILE who raped a 14-year-old girl at knifepoint has been jailed for 15 years.

Matthew Lawton, from Widnes, was locked up at Liverpool Crown Court today, Thursday, after being found guilty of 19 sexual offences against two teenage victims.

The 30-year-old defendant preyed on both of his victims via Snapchat, telling them that he was aged 19 before arranging to meet them.

Despite being fully aware that the girls were underage, he had sex with them on a number of occasions and ‘pestered them’ to send indecent images of themselves.

Lawton, of Milton Road, even filmed himself having sex with the 14-year-old and used them footage to blackmail her into continue to meet up with him – threatening to post the video and other intimate pictures of her on social media if she did not.

He said he would damage her home and her mum’s car before raping the teenager on four times, threatening her with a knife on one of these occasions.

The vile predator then did post the video of the pair having sex online, with the police being informed after her school became aware of the footage circulating.

Lawton was identified as being the man shown in the clip from tattoos on his arms.

When he was arrested in November 2019, officers seized several devices – which were found to contain a string of sick messages, the video and photographs upon examination.

The second victim, who was aged 13, was originally interviewed as a potential witness to these crimes.

She then told her mum that she too had had sex with Lawton after he befriended her on Snapchat.

He was convicted of four counts of rape, nine charges of sexual activity with a child, two of meeting a child after grooming, two counts of sexual communications with a child, inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and taking indecent images after a trial last month.

The pervert was caged after being brought back before the court to be sentenced today, and was also handed an extended four years on licence to be served upon his release from prison.

Detective sergeant Gary McClatchey, who led the investigation, said: “Matthew Lawton groomed two young girls via social media and preyed on them for his own sexual gratification.

“He told both girls that he was 19, when the reality was that he was a predatory paedophile who was then in his late 20s.

“The long list of offences he subjected the victims to is nothing short of horrific – he raped the older victim on four separate occasions, one of which saw him threaten her with a knife beforehand.

“Lawton committed the rapes after she had told him that she didn’t want to meet up with him anymore.

“He made a series of threats to ensure that she continued to see him, including threatening to put a video of them having sex on social media for people she knows to see.

“Him carrying out this threat led to us being made aware of the video via a high school and launching an investigation that has now culminated in Lawton being brought to justice for his despicable actions.

“These actions included Lawton contacting the younger victim after being released on conditional bail in relation to the investigation involving the older girl.

“Lawton has shown no consideration for the victims at any stage, refusing to admit the extremely serious sexual offences he committed and making them give evidence at court.

“Being dragged through the court process is always a stressful and traumatic experience for victims in cases involving sexual offences, particularly when they are so young.

“I would like to praise the victims for the bravery they have shown in disclosing what Lawton subjected them to, both to us and then during the trial – I hope the fact that Lawton is now behind bars, where he can no longer sexually exploit and pose a threat to girls, gives the victims and their families some closure.

“However, the victims will continue to receive the help and support they need to move forward with their lives.

“I also hope the sentence that Lawton has been handed by the court deters others from committing similar offences.”

Lawton was also told to sign the sex offenders’ register for life and handed an indefinite sexual harm prevention order.

Chief inspector Ian Whiley added: “Sexual abuse is a horrific crime, and this is a particularly distressing case.

“I would like to thank all the officers involved in the complex investigation for all their hard work in unravelled the extent of the offending and gathering the required level of evident to secure convictions for all 19 offences.

“This case highlights the fact that people you communicate with on social may not be who they claim to be and that you should never send indecent photographs or videos of yourself to others, or let them take such photographs or videos of you.

“It also highlights the need for parents and guardians to warn their children of the dangers of communicating with people via social media, to check that they are using those things safely and to keep an eye out for any warning signs of sexual exploitation.

“I hope that Matthew Lawton’s convictions and sentencing encourages anyone who has been subjected to similar offending to report it to the police.

“They should feel confident that they will receive the help and support they need from our specialist officers and other support agencies we work alongside.

“All victims will be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve, and any allegations will be taken extremely seriously and thoroughly investigated with the wishes and the needs of the victim as our main priority.”