A PIMP who sold underage girls for sex and a driver who worked for his seedy escort agency have been jailed for a total of seven-and-a-half years.

Stephen Castle, 41, owned the Girls 4 You escort agency and ran it from his flat in Shoebury, employing girls as young as 15.

Stephen Davis, 55, worked as a driver, ferrying prostitutes to addresses across Essex and arranging for them to receive payment and drugs.

Both men were found guilty of child exploitation offences after a trial at Basildon Crown Court.

The trial ended several weeks ago but it was subject to strict reporting restrictions because one of the victims, who was just 15 years old when she joined the agency, was linked to Amin Kaveh, of Shoebury, who was a defendant in another sex abuse trial at Chelmsford Crown Court.

Castle, who now lives in Friday Street, Eastbourne, was found guilty of two counts of intentionally controlling a child prostitute between June 1, 2013 and April 12, 2014.

He admitted controlling adult prostitution in relation to other escorts working for Girls 4 U.

He also admitted possessing indecent images of children, including four category A images and several Category C images featuring himself and one of the teenage prostitutes.

He further admitted distribution of indecent images involving one of the victims carrying out a sex act on him. He sent it to 21 of his friends.

Davis, of High Street, Shoebury, was found guilty of two counts of arranging or facilitating the prostitution of a child between the same dates and intentionally controlling the activities of other people relating to prostitution.

Both Castle and Davis admitted to supplying class A drugs.

Castle was jailed for a total of four years and Davis was jailed for a total of two-and-a-half years.

Both must sign the sex offenders’ register for ten years.

Sentencing the pair, Judge Samantha Leigh said: “The background of this case involves the exploitation of two young girls.

“One of the girls was in care. We know that she had a very difficult relationship with her family and with her foster carer.

“The fact that she considered herself homeless and the fact that she thought her only way out was to work as a prostitute is heartbreaking.

“She talks of her shame at falling into that life and missing out on her teenage years.

“She felt worthless and degraded.

“Drugs were a very big feature. They were freely available at the flat while the girls were waiting for the customers to come in.

“I have no doubt that that impressed the girls, young as they were.

“It meant they had a free source of drugs which worked to feed their habit.”

The trial heard Castle was a drug addict who had little regard for the welfare of the girls.

Judge Leigh said: “It wasn’t until the girl was away from the situation that she actually saw that you were both really wrong.

“She said she was ‘hypnotised’ and so involved in drugs that she was doing something she didn’t want to do and she got out of it.

“Castle, you were aware of her vulnerability but it didn’t stop you having sex with her on two occasions.

“You misused the girls for your own means and leisure.

“Davis, she trusted you even more because you did the little things for her that meant a lot, like tended her sister’s grave.

“She told you she was 15, I have no doubt about that at all.”

Davis was not accused of having sex with the girls.

  • Steven Davies

Essex Police launched an investigation in April 2014 after officers found a vulnerable 16-year-old girl, who had been reported missing from home, in a car driven by Davis.

She told officers she had been working as a prostitute and Davis was arrested on suspicion of arranging or facilitating child prostitution.

During the course of their enquiries, the victim told police she had started working for the agency shortly before her 16th birthday and had never been asked her age, though she had told Davis.

She also described how both men had supplied her with mephedrone.

Officers found indecent images of the girl and a second victim, also aged 16, on Castle’s mobile phone, as well as a large number of text messages revealing his involvement in the running of Girls4you.

There were also text messages referring to the supply of drugs by both him and Davis.

Officers spoke to a number of women who worked for Girls4you, who said they would drink and take drugs at his flat while waiting for bookings.

Davis would drive them to their appointments and took over the management of the business if Castle was away or busy.

Girls4you, which operated for 14 years, was shut down when Castle was arrested on August 27, 2014, after officers executed a search warrant at his then address in Shoebury.

The computer programmer declined to answer questions during police interview.

  • Stephen Castle

Speaking after the trial, Det Sup Mark Hall, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: "Davis and Castle operated their business with absolutely no regard for just how young and vulnerable some of these girls were.

"They claimed to have looked after them but all they did was exploit them to make money for themselves and ply them with drugs and alcohol to maintain control over them.

"When Castle was arrested, he had a solicitor’s phone number written on his hand and told officers he had taken that precaution because he knew the police would be visiting him.

"Neither he nor Davis have shown any remorse for their actions, but the time they will now spend behind bars might give them the opportunity to reflect on the huge impact their selfish and despicable behaviour has had.

"They put their victims through the ordeal of giving evidence in court - young women who have already endured more hardship than many of their age and were taken advantage of in the most disgusting way.

"I’d like to pay tribute to their bravery and thank them for their support throughout this investigation and trial. 

"I hope the jailing of the men who exploited them will help them to continue moving forward with their lives and prevent any more young girls falling victim to their greed.”