April 2012

Man from Easington, near Loftus, jailed for having sex with 14-year-old York girl

A MAN from the North-East who used a social networking site to groom a 14-year-old girl for sex has been jailed for five years.

Christopher James Crooks, who was 23 when the offences were committed last year, communicated with the girl through the Tagged website, and they swapped phone numbers, exchanged texts and arranged to meet in York last September, York Crown Court heard.

Crooks’ personal information on the website gave his age as 15, something he claimed he was unable to rectify.

Anthony Dunne, prosecuting, said Crooks, of Glebe Gardens, Easington, near Loftus, east Cleveland, began communication with the York girl, and told her his real age before arranging to meet.

He said Crooks drove to York to meet the girl, and took her to secluded woodland off the A64 where he kissed and touched her, but she told him she did not want to have sex with him.

That night, Crooks told her in a text message “it would mean a lot” if he could take her virginity, and they returned to the woodland the following day and had sex, the court heard.

Her parents alerted police after concerned school friends raised the alarm.

Crooks pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual activity with a child, and two counts of meeting a child following sexual grooming.

Kevin Blount, mitigating, said Crooks acknowledged a custodial sentence was “inevitable”, but said his client had made it very clear to his victim that he was not 15 from the outset of their relationships, and the sex acts were consensual.

Judge Roger Ibbotson sentenced Crooks to five years in prison for engaging in sexual activities with a child, and one year each for three other grooming offences, to be served concurrently.

He told Crooks: “I’m not convinced by the assertion that you accidentally said your age to be 15 on the website, though I accept that you did make it clear to the victim what your true age was when you actually met her.”

Crooks, who has already served 193 days in prison since his arrest, will also be placed on the sex offenders register, and will be disqualified indefinitely from working with children.

A spokeswoman for North Yorkshire Police said Crooks’ conviction should act as a warning for users of social network sites.

She said: “We hope the outcome encourages other victims to come forward knowing that the police and criminal justice system take all cases of this nature very seriously.

“The case highlights why we all need to be vigilant when chatting on the internet. The internet is a good thing when used cautiously, but young people should never meet up with anyone they do not know. Even adults should only meet new people in very public places and even then, they should take a friend with them if they can.”