February 2015

Judge’s Facebook warning as he jails dangerous sex offender who met up with girl (14)

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A JUDGE has warned that vulnerable young girls could be targeted on Facebook and other social media by sexual predators who were “casting around” in the hope of meeting them for sex.

He warned that vulnerable people who were “aching for some contact” could be taken advantage of by people who were “after them for one purpose only”.

The judge spoke out as he jailed a “dangerous” sex offender for four years and branded him a sexual predator because of the way he targeted two girls for his “own sexual satisfaction”.

Benjamin Appleton, 27, of Cartergate, Grimsby, denied sexually assaulting a girl between December 2013 and March last year but was convicted by a jury.

He was cleared of raping her.

He admitted meeting a child following grooming and causing a child to engage in sexual activity and to watch a sexual act.

Geraldine Kelly, prosecuting, told Grimsby Crown Court that Appleton contacted one of the girls on Facebook and asked her to be his friend. They had never met before.

He met the 14-year-old girl at Pleasure Island, Cleethorpes, and sent her sexual messages on Facebook, telling her she was “dead cute”.

Appleton lied about his age and pretended he was 20. He told her he would “show her how naughty he was” and made sexual comments to her.

When they met, he kissed her.

“She found him attractive and she liked it at the time,” said Miss Kelly.

Appleton wanted the girl to kiss him intimately.

After the first meeting, he continued to send the girl messages and “told her he was going to treat her like a princess” but she did not reply.

He sent her a message on Facebook telling her he was thinking about her and asking when they were going to meet again.

He later sent sexually explicit messages but the girl blocked him.

She then got a message on her mobile phone from a number she did not recognise – Appleton – and she told her mother she was meeting someone else.

She agreed to go to his home with him but told him she had a boyfriend.

He picked her up and sat her on his knee, carried her in to his bedroom and showed her a pornographic video on his phone.

“He told her he wanted her to do that to him,” said Miss Kelly.

He exposed himself to the girl.

The incident with the other girl involved him meeting her after contact on Facebook.

He put his hand around her throat and tried to kiss her. He was cleared of raping her.

Craig Lowe, mitigating, said the physical contact with the first girl was limited to Appleton kissing her with her consent.

Other sexual behaviour “did not happen”.

Judge Peter Kelson QC said: “Your intention in casting around on Facebook was to find a female of whatever age with whom you intended to have sex,” he said.

“You are, by any definition of the word, a sexual predator. You are, in my view, dangerous.”

Appleton had “no regard” for the age of the females he might meet and the age gap between him and the 14-year-old girl was “very substantial”.

“She made clear to you that she had no sexual interest in you,” said Judge Kelson.

“She was vulnerable. She had had problems. You did not care at all. All you cared about was your own sexual satisfaction.

“You are a sexual predator. You were pursuing her. You were being sexually explicit.”

The assault on the second girl was “sexually violent”, he said.

Judge Kelson said: “I hope that the public will begin to realise what a threat Facebook and other media can be when they are cast around by people like you.”

There was a danger that “people aching for some contact” with others might accept invitations from others who were “after them for one purpose only”.

The victims, in their “naivete and vulnerability”, hoped that they might meet “a decent individual who just wants conversation”.

Appleton was given an indefinite sexual offences prevention order, restricting his contact with girls under 16 and his use of the internet, and must register as a sex offender.