June 2020

Paedo who groomed and abused schoolgirl, 13, dodges jail

A pervert who groomed and abused a schoolgirl while pretending to be a teenager has dodged jail after a judge said he would live a “law abiding life”.

Michael Thornton, who was 22 at the time, told his 13-year-old victim that he was 16 after she accepted a Facebook invitation from him, a court was told.

Around the same time, Thornton, previously of Trafford, Greater Manchester, had sex with two other schoolgirls and was sentenced for these offences previously.

But his other victim came forward to police years later to report what had happened to her

Prosecutor Justin Heyhoe told Minshull Street Crown Court it would have been “abundantly clear” to Thornton that she was a child from pictures of her on Facebook.

He told her she was “beautiful” and the girl “fell in love” with Thornton before they agreed to meet up, the court heard.

They twice had sex, once after she met Thornton while wearing her school uniform, but when the victim reflected on what happened she felt “disgusted”, the court heard.

After she began to search for Thornton “out of curiosity” she discovered he had been lying about his age and wouldn’t have engaged with Thornton if had she known the truth, Mr Hayhoe said.

Thornton was interviewed last year after the police launched an investigation.

He originally appeared at Manchester Crown Court in 2011 and was given opportunity to complete a three-year community order after spending 18 months on remand.

The court heard Thornton was “extremely immature” when committing the offence but is now a married father-of-three and has a job.

Judge Mark Savill told Thornton he had done “exactly that which was required of you by the court” and this “is an exceptional set of circumstances”.

“No one must think that anyone committing these offences can expect anything other than a far longer immediate sentence of imprisonment,” the judge said.

“Rarely can I say this, I am fully satisfied that you will continue to live a decent, law-abiding life.”

Thornton, of Beancroft Road, Wakefield, , admitted two offences of sexual activity with a child.

He was sentenced to six months in prison – suspended for 18 months – and ordered to complete a for sex offenders programme.