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    Ashleigh’s Rules too late for Ashleigh

    Date: 03.22.10 | by Judge Tom.

    Ashleigh Hall was 17-years-old when she met Peter Cartwright on Facebook. She was attracted by a picture of a young, bare-chested man and agreed to meet him. She told her mother she was going to stay with a friend when she left home in October, 2009.

    Cartwright was not the 17-year-old Ashleigh read about on Facebook. He was really a 33-year-old convicted sex offender named Peter Chapman. He told Ashleigh that his father would pick her up near her home – a trick to get her into his car.


    When Chapman was 15, he was the subject of a sexual assault investigation. At 19, he was accused of raping a girl he befriended. The charges were dropped in that case but two other assaults resulted in a prison sentence. Chapman raped two teen prostitutes at knifepoint and received seven years imprisonment. He was released in 2001. In 2002, he was arrested for another rape but the case was dismissed.

    Chapman raped and strangled Ashleigh.  He buried her in a farmer’s field. The next day he was arrested and admitted the killing, leading authorities to Ashleigh’s body. He pleaded guilty and in March, 2010, was sent to prison for life with a minimum of 35 years before parole can be considered. British and U.S. authorities are working on a way to flag  a convicted sex offender when he or she goes online.

    In 2012, the FBI expanded its eighty year-old definition of rape to include men as victims for the first time. They also dropped the requirement that victims must have physically resisted their victims. Since 1929, the FBI defined rape as the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will. The revised definition covers any gender of victim or attacker. It also includes cases where the victim is incapable of consenting because of the influence of drugs or alcohol or because of age. The newly defined crime says that rape is “the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object” without the consent of the victim.

    Some of Ashleigh’s college friends created a list of guidelines on Internet safety, known as Ashleigh’s Rules. A local newspaper printed 15,000 cards with the Rules and distributed them to all of the kids in Ashleigh’s town, Darlington, England.

    The rules state:

    • If ever meeting up with somebody who is alien to you or your friends make sure that you meet them in a group of at least two to three, in public and in a well-lit and populated area;

    • Inform somebody of where you are going and what time you should be back; also the name of who you are meeting;

    • Don’t accept anyone on social networking sites that you don’t know;

    • Remember never to trust anyone who you have met online – you don’t know what they are capable of doing;

    • Never tell a stranger on network sites or chat rooms anything personal about yourself, such as where you live, or your date of birth;

    • Never meet anyone you don’t know.

    Ashleigh's friends holding the Rules

    In another case, but with an unusual twist, a predator was convicted on February 15, 2012 in Australia for “Internet luring.” Kevin Wendall Cooke, age 58, spent three weeks online speaking with thirteen year-old Samantha. The court found that he was grooming her for sex. However, Cooke was actually communicating with a man, Shane Brown, who set up the fake profile to trap would-be online predators. The police took over the contact and a meeting was set up between “Samantha” and Cooke. An undercover police officer was used to meet Cooke and arrest him in 2010. Sentencing is scheduled in April, 2012. The police recommended against citizens doing what Brown did although in this case it led to an arrest and conviction.

    Update: Based on the fact that Cooke wasn’t involved with drugs, had no criminal record and no evidence of any interest in child pornography, he was sentenced to 18 months of house arrest followed by 2 years of probation. He has limited access to the Internet and must register as a sex offender for ten years.

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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