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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

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Lonely man harassed teenage girls on Facebook, Carlisle court told

A lonely 46-year-old man harassed two 14-year-old girls on Facebook after posing as a 19-year-old.

Brian Key, who kept children’s underwear stashed at his home to dress up in, bombarded the two girls with messages, Carlisle Crown Court heard.

The police became involved after he went to them for help because the mother of one of the girls had called Key, warning him to leave her daughter alone and he felt threatened.

Prosecutor Gerard Rogerson described how the offences came to light when a school protection officer in Workington was approached by one of the girls who said a man was harassing her on Facebook. Key was also sending her text messages on her mobile phone.

The girl said she had asked Key to leave her alone but he had replied that he wanted to “be in a relationship” with her, said Mr Rogerson.

The girl’s mother intervened, calling the defendant and telling him: “Just a friendly warning: leave my daughter alone, she’s only 14.” He hung up.

When police interviewed the girl she said Key had claimed he was 19 when he initially sent her a friend request, though his picture on his profile page showed that was clearly not the case.

Mr Rogerson said: “Once she had accepted his friend request, two weeks before the police interview, she began to receive messages, and the messages were pestering, asking if she would be his girlfriend.

“One said that if he was married to her he would do the washing and cleaning, and he would cook for her.

“She felt there was something not quite right about these messages and told him to leave her alone.”

Even after she swore at him in her reply he continued to send her messages.

The second girl had a similar experience with Key. When police arrested and interviewed him, Key said he was “having a laugh” and trying to find a girlfriend.

What did cause concern, said Mr Rogerson, was that police when they searched Key’s home found children’s underwear and he suggested the clothing was for him to dress up in.

Liz Muir, for Key, said he had shown his own naivety when he contacted the police himself in April last year after he got the call from the mother of one of the girls.

“That clearly shows a lack on insight into his behaviour and the effect it would have on these young girls,” she said. “He still had his Facebook profile open when the police visited him the next day.

“He is a man who clearly has some learning difficulties, and difficulties in general dealing with life. He has been extremely lonely. It’s through his naivety that he has got himself into this predicament.”

Judge Barbara Forrester said she was satisfied it was not necessary to jail Key, who is originally from Whitehaven but has now moved to Morton, in Carlisle.

She imposed a three-year supervision order, a restraining order and said Key should attend an appropriate course.

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