August 2013

Soldier jailed for grooming girl on Facebook

A SOLDIER has been jailed after grooming a 15-year-old girl for sex he met on Facebook.

Paul Fletcher, aged 27, used the social networking site to target the vulnerable teenager, who lives in a care home in Warrington because of ‘significant family problems’.He sent her numerous texts talking of his feelings for her, and how he wanted to ‘strip off’ her clothes.

She responded in kind, with Fletcher booking a room at the Travelodge on Kendrick Street in April where they had sex, two months after her 15th birthday.

At Warrington Crown Court on Tuesday, Judge David Hale said the case showed how the internet could be ‘dangerous’.

He said: “Paul Fletcher, you contacted this girl over the internet and started an online relationship with her on Facebook.

“There is no evidence to dispute that you say she initially said she was 18.

“You were infatuated with her by the time you knew perfectly well she was just 15.

“You knew she was in a care home.

“It must have dawned on you she was quite a vulnerable girl.

“Notwithstanding that, you had sex with her on two occasions.

“You must have known this was wrong and illegal.

“The internet can be a very dangerous thing.”

The relationship came to light when Fletcher was seen by care home staff picking up the teenager in his car.

Police were called and went to the Travelodge where they found the defendant and his victim.

Matthew Corbett-Jones, prosecuting, said officers asked Fletcher how old the girl was.

He told them 16 before she said ‘you know I’m 15’.

An examination of her phone was made, while hotel staff said the two could be heard having sex.

Fletcher was arrested at Army barracks in Wiltshire where he was serving at the time of the offence.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual activity with a girl under 16, and grooming, on July 15.

Jeremy Rawson, defending, said: “She was under the age of 16, but as infatuated as he was, he carried on which he accepts was wholly wrong.”

Fletcher was jailed for 18 months for grooming, and 32 months for sexual activity with a girl under the age of 16, to run concurrently.

He will sign the Sex Offender’s Register for life, and will not be able to have contact with girls aged under 16.