Detective Constable Francois Olwage, aged 52, from Stevenage, was arrested on October 29, 2021 and remanded into custody. At an earlier court hearing he had pleaded not guilty to:
Attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child
Attempting to cause/incite a girl aged 13 to 15 to engage in sexual activity
Meeting a girl under 16 years of age following grooming
At the start of the trial at Winchester Crown Court on Monday 11 April he pleaded guilty to a count of corruption or other improper exercise of police powers and privileges, and on Thursday 14 April he was found guilty by a jury of the other counts.
As well as being handed a five and a half year sentence, he will have to sign the sex offenders’ register indefinitely and was issued with a sexual harm prevention order.
The court heard how Olwage, who has been a police officer for 15 years, used a chat room service to engage with an online profile of who he believed was a 13-year-old girl, but was an undercover officer. Over the course of nearly two weeks the pair exchanged views and ideas and the tone of the conversation became increasingly sexualised. Eventually Olwage arranged to meet the young girl in her hometown of Basingstoke, where he was then arrested.
The offences date between the 15 and 28 of October 2021.
Detective Chief Inspector Andrea Dalton of the Vulnerable Children’s Unit, which is based within Hertfordshire’s Safeguarding Command said: “It is shocking that a serving police officer has committed these appalling crimes. However, the reason he was caught is because of the tenacity and determination of other police officers who work daily to protect the public and keep people safe. No favouritism was shown to him for being a police officer as the investigation and court process showed.
“I thank my team of exemplary detectives for the professionalism they have shown. “Investigating those who seek to harm children is incredibly difficult and the results they achieve make me exceptionally proud.”
During sentencing, Judge Jane Miller QC said: “You were a highly regarded police officer with considerable experience.
“You were expected to uphold the law but by trying to take advantage of a vulnerable child, albeit fictional, you showed a disregard for the public trust and confidence that is held in your office.”
Defence barrister, Adrienne Knight, said that Olwage, who had served with the Met for nine years and with Hertfordshire Constabulary for seven years, had submitted a letter expressing his “sorrow for what he had done”.
“There can be no doubt he was trying to find a relationship, trying to find love,” she said.
“He wasn’t looking for a 13-year-old but stumbled across it because of the way the police have encroached on these websites.
“This isn’t entrapment, but this was very close indeed.”
Senior crown prosecutor Marc Thompson said that while the officer had “denied any sexual interest in children” his messages “made it clear he believed he was in contact with a child”.
“On the day he planned to meet with his victim, he abandoned his police duties to pursue sexual gratification from someone he believed to be a child,” Mr Thompson said.
“No actual children were in danger, but it has given us a glimpse into what this man is capable of doing when he thinks he can rely on the anonymity of the internet.
“This is made all the more serious because he has broken the trust of the public he has sworn to protect.”
At the start of the trial, Olwage admitted an offence of improperly exercising his police powers and privileges in order to receive the “benefit of sexual gratification”.