Comedy hypnotist jailed for identity theft and stealing explicit images of women

<span>Robert Temple had previously overturned a ban on performing his stage show.</span><span>Photograph: DKPhotography</span>
Robert Temple had previously overturned a ban on performing his stage show.Photograph: DKPhotography

A comedy hypnotist who overturned a ban on performing his stage show has been given an eight-month prison sentence for identity theft and stealing explicit images of women.

Robert Temple admitted hacking into women’s email and social media accounts, and stealing identity documents and naked photos, which he exchanged for cryptocurrency.

A judge heard how Temple, described by prosecutors as “insidious”, hacked the Snapchat accounts of two women and subsequently downloaded the victims’ private pictures, including topless and nude photos, to sell online.

Temple, who made headlines this year when he successfully appealed against a hypnotism ban to perform his show in Bolton, boasted of using his “dazzling hypnotic ability” to make audience members “lose all inhibitions”.

He was jailed on Monday at Teesside crown court for three counts of fraud, two counts of hacking and one of concealing criminal property.

One of his victims spoke of how she was contacted by the police in March 2022 and told that Temple had hacked into her email account and stolen pictures of her photo ID which she had sent to a former employer six years previously.

Ellie Norman, whose identity Temple was using to set up cryptocurrency accounts to layer the funds he made from selling explicit images, had never met Temple but thinks he could have come across her through friends she met at university in Sunderland.

Police asked if she knew someone called Emma Collins, and Norman remembered being contacted through Facebook by Collins, who had asked her if she wanted to make some extra money.

“Basically Robert Temple had created a fake Facebook profile under the name Emma Collins. He used it to lure women into joining a ‘modelling agency’ and would ask them to send [explicit] pictures and videos,” she said.

“[Temple had told her] ‘These men will pay you a lot of money if you send pictures and videos, I’ll be your manager, I’ll take a little cut of your money.’ I didn’t take that any further and just kind of stopped talking to her.

“She seemed really nice, just like she genuinely wanted to help you, so I was thrown back a little bit that ended up being a man.

“It’s quite scary actually.”

Norman did not send any images to Temple, nor was he able to access any explicit images of her, though he did steal them from other women.

She warned others to use secure passwords for their accounts, as she thinks Temple had been able to guess hers, which was a pet’s name and some numbers.

Annette Thomas, senior crown prosecutor, said: “The actions of Robert Temple were utterly reprehensible.

“Using insidious tactics, he exploited these unsuspecting women by hacking into their social media accounts and sharing intimate images of them online, without their knowledge, all for financial greed.

“Let this conviction be clear to those who hide behind a screen to commit their crimes, you cannot hide from the law and the Crown Prosecution Service will continue to work to achieve justice for victims of cybercrime.”

DI Jonathan Naylor, from the East Midlands special operations unit, said: “This man was operating on an online forum to target women, in which he would receive a specific request and hack social media accounts in order to obtain personal and explicit photos in exchange for crypto currency. Our joint investigation with Nottinghamshire police and Durham constabulary enabled us to identify Robert Temple and further fraud activity.”

He added that 22,530 people “reported that their online accounts had been hacked in 2023 and using information from data breaches. Leaked passwords obtained from phishing are key methods used by cybercriminals. To best protect yourself online, use strong and different passwords for your email and social media accounts, and turn on 2-step verification.”