A 34-year-old Cirencester man who groomed a 14-year-old girl for sex after she admired his trainers and his ‘bad boy image’ in a sweet shop was jailed for three and a half years today.
Judge Jamie Tabor QC told Craig Francis that his history of harassing his increasingly young girlfriends shows he is a danger to under age girls and should be locked up to protect them.
Francis, of North Home Road, Cirencester, admitted two charges of grooming the 14 year old and one of having sexual activity with her between November last year and Feb this year.
As well as being jailed he was ordered to sign the sex offender register for the rest of his life and was also made the subject of an indefinite sexual offences prevention order.
Prosecutor Mark Worsley said the girl, who also lived in Cirencester, met Francis when she was in a sweet shop with two friends, one of whom knew him.
The girl liked his trainers and was attracted to his ‘bad boy image,’ said Mr Worsley.
Later, she located him on Facebook and contacted him and they exchanged messages over the next month.
“There was then no contact till November when a friend of hers committed suicide and he contacted her to offer his condolences,” Mr Worsley said.
“Things then spiralled very quickly out of control. His messages to her became inappropriate and he said he wanted her to have his child.
“There were very, very frank sexual conversations and exchanges of photographs. A friend of hers had seen her hugging and kissing the defendant in a field and tried to intervene.
“Thereafter the girl met the defendant in an alleyway when her friend was present and he hugged her during that 10 minute episode.
“She met him again a few days later.”
Judge Tabor intervened “What she didn’t know was that he had a long history of harassment of ex partners.”
Mr Worsley went on “At that meeting he wanted to buy some trainers and asked to use her credit card saying he would reimburse her later. He did meet her to reimburse her.
“Her friend told her parents who advised her to tell the girl’s parents, which she did.
“The mother then contacted this defendant who denied anything had happened but said she was in love with him. He was then arrested.”
Mr Worsley told the judge the details of some of the messages Francis had sent the girl including one of him naked with an erection.
In a message in January this year he wrote “Want you baby. You look really fit.” He spoke about wanting sex with her in the seat of a car.
“He said he loved her and wanted her to have his baby. The messages became extremely lewd as he indicated what he wanted to do with her, sparing nothing in telling her.”
After Francis’ arrest his internet history showed he was searching for ‘cute teens doing various things with each other and with objects and such,” said Mr Worsley.
Judge Tabor expressed his surprise that a psychologist who had seen Francis concluded he did not pose an ongoing risk to girls.
“How on earth does he come to that conclusion?” said the judge. “It is not a conclusion I share.
“He has always, as far as I can tell, blamed her, which I find fairly remarkable.
“A report I have had about the young lady says she is fairly robust, will probably get over it but is finding it hard to hold her head up among her friends, which is hardly surprising.”
To defence solicitor Sabhia Pathan, the judge said “The age of the girls he likes is going down. He had a girlfriend of 18, then 17, then 16 and now this.”
Ms Pathan said that since being arrested and remanded to Bristol Prison he had been attacked twice by other inmates and suffered a broken jaw and a stabbing wound.
“I am sorry to hear that,” said the judge. “He should be better protected. “
Ms Pathan asked the judge to consider the probation service recommendation of a three year community order sentence for Francis. His father would be willing to accomodate him, she said.
“He has told me he knows he has issues. He has a multitude of convictions for harassment.”
But jailing Francis the judge said “I have come to the conclusion there is a very real risk of you committing further offences.
“This was a very bad case of its type in my judgement. You have a long and serious history of harassing those whom you have a relationship with.
“You set about seducing this girl, using the internet as your prime tool. When you found out she was only 14 that didn’t deter you in the slightest.
“Indeed, you appear to have been encouraged to carry on and the result is that she has been damaged by your attentions, damaged considerably.
“You appear to have no understanding of the effect you have had on her at all.
“You acknowledge in a letter to me that you need help. I think you do. But I am absolutely certain you should not be out at the present time. You are a real risk.”