January 2018

Man groomed vulnerable teen via ‘damning’ Facebook messages before abusing her

A MAN who groomed then sexually abused a vulnerable 15-year-old girl has been jailed for six-and-a-half years.

Steven Harris sent numerous Facebook messages to the child, which became increasingly sexual, in the months before he struck.

The 42-year-old, who gave the court an address on St Thomas Road, Trowbridge, groped her when she was ill in bed when he visited her family.

Harris pleaded not guilty to sexual activity with a child but was convicted by a jury at Swindon Crown Court last week.

Sarah Jones, prosecuting, told the panel of three men and nine women how Harris bombarded the girl with numerous ‘flirty’ messages in the months before the incident.

She said he knew the girl was very vulnerable as he talked to her in an increasingly sexualised way before going to her family’s home in January last year.

The teenager was feeling unwell and went up to bed and later on Harris went up to see her and started chatting.

As they were talking he started to rub her back and then put his hand under the covers and started to touch her inappropriately.

Harris insisted that he had never touched her and that the messages had been sent when he was drinking, but the jury did not believe him.

Miss Jones said that the youngster felt her mental health had deteriorated as a result of the incident and that she now had issues with trust.

Nicholas Clough, defending, said that his client had lost his job at Tesco after they were told about the charges.

He said his wife had also left him and he was having trouble seeing his children and will find time in prison very difficult.

Jailing him Judge Robert Pawson said “At some stage in 2016 you developed a sexual attraction towards the victim who was then 15 years of age.

“And you extremely unwisely started to engage in Facebook Messaging with her and the Facebook Messaging is damning, because I have read through 92 pages of those Facebook messages.

“It is abundantly clear to me that very early on you had formed an objective in mind and that was some sexual contact with a 15-year-old girl you knew was acutely vulnerable.

“You spent months gradually, ever so carefully, building up her trust and normalising sexual conversation and such that her guard would and was greatly dropped.

“She was lured ruthlessly by you in to dropping her guard and thinking that this was not as abnormal. On the day in question I have no doubt why you went up there.”