April 2009

Pervert had sex with 13-year-old schoolgirl

A LOVESTRUCK schoolgirl sent a topless picture of herself to a pervert who posed as a teenager in an Internet chatroom.

The pair exchanged a staggering 8,000 text messages before the 33-year-old man met the 13- year-old at a Hampshire station and they had sex in a tent.

Prosecutor Peter Asteris said Robert Merrick, pictured, had set out to target a young girl and contacted the girl on a site specifically designed for under 17s, identifying himself as Phil Hall and claiming to be 17.

The pair then regularly texted or phoned each other and the relationship developed. He asked for “sexy” pictures of her in her school uniform and she sent him one of her topless.

“She was sending messages to him between lessons and for up to five hours a night, and the defendant was contacting her every day until they met,” Mr Asteris said.

Four months after she began chatting to him on the site, they met at Southampton Parkway station. He gave her a miniskirt and the following day they had intercourse after the girl had made clear how old she was.

When Merrick was arrested, police recovered children’s clothing at his home.

Southampton Crown Court heard the experience had led the girl to self-harm and she felt “sick and dirty”.

Merrick, from Ashton-under- Lyme, admitted meeting a child after sexual grooming and having sexual activity with a child.

Jailing him for six years, Judge Derwin Hope said he had no doubt he had significantly targeted an underage girl with false personal details and had caused her deep psychological harm.

“The pattern of your offending is deeply entrenched and you accept you need specialist help,” he added.

Merrick also had his licence extended to eight years, was placed on the sex offenders’ register and banned from contacting, speaking or being in premises with under 18s except when in the company of an adult or with parental permission. Both will run indefinitely.