Febuary 2010

Man went on run with schoolgirl

A 22-year-old man has been jailed for 18 months after admitting having sex with a 13-year-old Devon girl he met via the Facebook website.

James Grenfell, of Braintree, Essex, was arrested in Scotland after a police search for the pair in September 2009, he was described as “weak, naïve and unassertive” when he appeared for sentencing at Exeter Crown Court yesterday.

He had previously pleaded guilty to one charge of meeting a girl following sexual grooming and three of sexual activity with a child.

But yesterday the court was told Grenfell had not deliberately targeted an underage girl for sex and that a mutual sexual relationship developed after the pair had first met on the Internet.

Recorder, Miss Sarah Munro QC, said she accepted the 13-year-old had played a willing part in the incident. She told Grenfell: “I accept she was keen to be with you and engage in sexual intercourse with you.

“I accept she has not been damaged by this and regarded it as an adventure.”

The girl disappeared from her home in Torquay in September. Police launched a nationwide hunt, fearing she had been abducted by Grenfell.

It was six days before the girl was found in Scotland after a member of the public recognised the girl with him in Edinburgh.

Prosecutor Nicholas Gerasimides said the pair met on an Internet chat forum which was designed for 12 to 19-year- olds. He said the victim had mental health and emotional problems and was “clearly vulnerable”. He said the pair then formed a sexual relationship during a series of meetings and stays at B&Bs is Torquay, London and Edinburgh.

At an earlier hearing the defendant pleaded not guilty to child abduction.

That plea was accepted by the prosecution and a not guilty verdict was recorded.

Grenfell was charged with meeting a child following sexual grooming of a child under the age of 16. He was also accused of three charges of sexual activity with a child. Sentence had been adjourned for psychological and pre-sentence reports.

Grenfell was given 12 months for the offence of sexual grooming and 18 months for the three charges of sexual activity with a girl under 16, to run concurrently.

Miss Munro ordered that Grenfell sign the Sex Offenders’ Register and remain on it for 10 years. He was also given a Sexual Offences Protection Order for a period of five years.