July 2023

Paedophile preyed on vulnerable girl who wanted to ‘play games’

A man told a nine-year-old girl he would no longer “play games with her” if she did not show him her genitals, a court has heard.

Michael Hartley, 36, of Winter Grove, St Helens, appeared at Liverpool Crown Court on Wednesday after pleading guilty to six counts of inciting a girl under 13 to engage in sexual activity.

A court heard that one of the offences took place over a video call and another in a Whatsapp image.

Charlotte Kenny, prosecuting, told the court that the victim’s father was checking his then 10-year-old daughter’s phone and saw messages with Hartley on Whatsapp.

He noticed that all messages prior to this date had been deleted but when checking the images on the phone, he saw pictures of his daughter’s genitals.

The father asked his daughter how she knew how to delete images and message history on her phone, and she confirmed Hartley had shown her how to do so. She told him Hartley asked her to send the images and show him her genitals, and told her if she did not do so, he would not speak to her anymore.

Ms Kenny said: “She played games with the defendant on Facebook and Whatsapp.” The victim told her father that Hartley said “show me and if she did not he wouldn’t play with her anymore.”

She was unsure exactly how many times incidents such as this had happened, “but it was a lot”. A victim personal statement written by the victim’s father, referenced by the prosecution, detailed that the victim was vulnerable and the defendant was aware of this.

A court heard that the girl now regularly breaks down and thinks she has done something wrong, and does not understand why this has happened to her.

A court also heard that members of Hartley’s family appeared in court, but made clear to his defence they were “not here to support him”.

Judge Trevor-Jones said: “These were repeated offences and not a one off.

“You must have known what you were doing, and that you were grooming her to do what you wanted her to do.” Hartley was given a sentence of three years imprisonment, and a sexual harm prevention order was implemented.

He is also now subject to notification requirements indefinitely and a victim surcharge was applied. A woman in the family area punched the air when he was sentenced.