A hacker who stole private images of women and posted them online has been jailed.

Samuel Robins, 35 of London Road, Westcliff, used his computing skills to gain access to computers and data belonging to five young women between 2013 and 2016.

After gaining access to their data, he sought out private sexual images and posted images belonging to four of the women online.

He also published their contact details including links to a social media site.

Robins also sent website links to the women themselves and people known to them – including one of their managers.

It was the actions of Robins that resulted in the discovery of a network of other hackers who were accessing hundreds of people’s accounts.

Four other men from Sunderland, Stevenage, Eye and Hathern have also been jailed.

He was sentenced to 50 months for five counts of causing a computer to perform a function to secure unauthorised access to a programme or data and four counts of disclosing private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress.

Robins admitted to the offences and one count of unauthorised acts with intent to impair the operation of a computer and obtaining an article for supply to commit a computer misuse offence remain on file.

He has been made subject of various restraining orders.

When sentencing Robins, His Honour Judge Andrew Hurst said: “Whether Robins carried out these offences due to some grudge he held against the young women, or simply in order to live out some kind of sexual fantasy is not clear.

“What is very clear is that he completely disregarded each of his victims rights to keep their data, including such private images of themselves, private.

“He set out to ensure that they each felt publicly embarrassed and ashamed.

“Robins engaged in sexually motivated, criminal behaviour over a lengthy period of time by a highly computer literate individual.

“By committing these offences, the defendant breached the privacy of young women in a most personal and hurtful way and caused his victims to fear that their lives in future may be blighted by personal data, and in particularly explicit photos, linked to their names being available online."

Senior Investigating Officer Det Chief Insp Stuart Truss, who manages Essex Police’s Cyber Crime Unit said: "This is an excellent result for the team whom have worked on an operation for three years to target this group of hackers who were spread across the UK.

“They were targeting mainly young women, mostly aged between 18 and 25, and they captured their most intimate photographs for their own and others sexual gratification without their knowledge.

“Accessing other people’s on-line accounts is a serious offence and the case was made worse after the defendants shared data and images online.

“Posting private intimate pictures of the victims without their consent can cause long lasting harm and distress to victims. Once the pictures are posted they can never be truly removed.

“I have to commend my team, led by Det Sgt Ian Collins and the case officer Det Con Arran Holmes. They have both worked tirelessly to get these results and to support victims.

“I hope the hundreds of victims are able to get some form of closure from the vile actions of these individuals following their prison sentences.”