Spennymoor man in 50s ‘exploited’ underage girl for sex

David Potts given nine year extended sentence for grooming and meeting girl for sexual activity

A man “exploited” an underage teenage girl for his own sexual desires, a court was told.

Over a five-month period David Potts sent the girl numerous increasingly suggestive messages, bought her gifts, exchanged intimate photographs and went on to meet her for liaisons during which sexual activity took place.

Durham Crown Court heard that their relationship only came to light when the girl’s father came across some of the messages, shortly before Christmas in 2017.

He told the girl’s mother of his shock discovery and they decided to report it to police.

But the court heard the girl still had feelings for Potts, believing they were “boyfriend/girlfriend” and resented her father’s actions.

Potts, now 54, of Beech Avenue, Spennymoor, admitted sexual communication with a child, two counts of causing a child to watch a sexual act, inciting child sexual exploitation, meeting a child following grooming and two counts of sexual activity with a child.

But he denied causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, and two more serious offences of sexual activity with a child but was found guilty of all three offences by unanimous jury verdicts, following a trial earlier this year.

His sentencing hearing was told of her father’s anguish, but the girl herself stated she did not feel affected by her relationship with Potts and blames her father for it ending.

Judge Jonathan Carroll said he believes Potts poses a high risk of causing further serious harm and so passed an extended determinate sentence of nine years, with three years extended licence.

It means Potts can only be released from custody at the behest of the Parole Board after serving at least two-thirds, six years, of the custodial element of the sentence.

He said that the girl may not consider herself a victim, but stated that she is wrong, as she was manipulated by Potts’ grooming.

Judge Carroll told Potts: “You exploited her with a clear intention of putting your own selfish sexual desires first, last and in the middle, with no thought about what was right for her.”

Potts was made subject of registration as a sex offender for life and an indefinite sexual harm prevention order.

February 2019

Pervert groomed schoolgirl for sex

A man who engaged in, “a destructive relationship for his own sexual desires”, has been warned he is facing an inevitable prison sentence.

Those were the comments of Judge Jonathan Carroll after a Durham Crown Court jury found David Potts guilty of three charges arising from his “inappropriate” relationship with an underage girl.

The 53-year-old defendant previously admitted a series of other charges relating to sexualised messages he sent to the girl, but he denied allegations relating to serious contact offences with her.

During the trial the girl gave evidence down-playing Potts’ actions, back-tracking from what she initially told police when the relationship first came to light.

The court heard that, “at the heart of the case” were messages sent by Potts to the girl, referring to the sexual activity between the pair, stating: “Wasn’t it great?”

Potts believed they were instantly deleted, but the smitten girl screen-shot them, enabling police to discover them in their investigation.

In her closing speech, Jane Waugh, prosecuting, said Potts’ grooming tactics involved praising the girl, hoping it would lead to further sexual activity.

“The grooming was so successful that perhaps she still loves him. She said he was there when she needed a friend.

“She thought he was her boyfriend, but the Crown would say: ‘Look again at those messages.’

“Saying: ‘Wasn’t it great?’ It’s clearly not play acting, you might think.

“This was not a relationship, it was abuse.”

David Callan, defending, said Potts was “ashamed” of the messages, conceding they were “inappropriate”, but denied the factual basis of events apparently referred to in them.

Mr Callan described the messages as “banter”, “flattery” and “fantasy”, but said it did not mean the acts referred to actually took place.

Potts, of Beech Avenue, Spennymoor, admitted charges related to sexual communication with a child, sending her pornographic images and meeting her following sexual grooming, plus two counts of sexual activity with a child, relating to kissing and touching her bottom over clothing.

But he denied two further counts of sexual activity with a child, relating to more serious acts, and one of causing a child to engage in sexual activity.

After the jury’s unanimous guilty verdicts on the three denied counts, Judge Jonathan Carroll asked for a probation report to assess the danger of further similar offending offending by Potts.

Adjourning sentence for a month, he remanded Potts in custody, telling him: “You have been convicted of extremely serious sexual offences, engaging in a destructive relationship for your own sexual desires.

“A custodial sentence is absolutely inevitable. The only question is how long.”