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Wednesday, 01 October 2014

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Cumbrian dad tried to seduce girl, 11, on Facebook

A dad who tried to seduce an 11-year-old girl by sending her messages on Facebook has been spared jail.

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James Howes, 29, who was described in court as posing a “high risk of serious harm to female children”, messaged her last July, telling her he was lonely and wanted female company.

He told her he wished she was “at least 16”, but despite knowing her true age said he would pay her to clean his house and provide “other services”.

He later revised that, Carlisle Crown Court heard, and told her to forget the housework and he would just give her £20 for the “other services” instead.

Prosecuting counsel Kim Whittlestone told the court that the girl had asked Howes, of Albert Street, Longtown, to be her Facebook “friend” because she knew his daughter.

He agreed, but then started sending her messages which began to worry her so much she asked him to stop being so suggestive.

“He would tell her he was alone and needed some company, and he would call her ‘Babe’, which she didn’t like, and tell her he wanted to put her over his knee,” Ms Whittlestone said.

Howes asked the girl personal questions, the court heard, and told her he wanted to “kiss her all over – her neck and her body”.

The girl became so concerned about his messages she took “a very responsible attitude” and told him off, Ms Whittlestone said.

Howes was arrested after he told his girlfriend he had been getting Facebook messages from a young girl, the court heard.

The girlfriend accessed his Facebook account, read the messages from him and was so worried by what she found that she called the police.

The schoolgirl’s mother also went to the police when she became concerned about the “content and innuendo” of the messages, Ms Whittlestone said.

Howes pleaded guilty to inciting the girl to engage in sexual activity.

In mitigation, defence barrister Alison Whalley said Howes had lost everything – his job, his girlfriend, his friends and his children – because of what he had done.

Passing sentence Judge Barbara Forrester said it was clear Howes’ only aim had been to get the girl into his house for “some sort of physical contact”.

She said it was only because the girl was so “very wary” that the two never actually met.

“She was sensible beyond her years,” the judge told him. “Had she been a little more gullible the outcome may have been different and you may have been before the court for even more serious offences.”

He was given a three-year community order, with the condition that he attends a rehabilitation programme for sex offenders, and made to do 100 hours unpaid community work.

He was also put on the sex offenders register for five years, banned from having any contact with the girl for 10 years and disqualified indefinitely from working with children.

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