A MAN who booked into a hotel with a 14-year-old girl despite knowing she was underage has walked free from court.
Preston Crown Court heard how Mark Breckell met the young girl on the internet but realised she was too young when he met her.
But the 42-year-old stayed with her to have a meal at a Barrow hotel and was arrested and charged with child abduction.
The defendant, of Rosslyn Crescent, Poulton, pleaded guilty to an offence of abducting a child.
The court heard the girl had contacted Breckell via a social networking site. The defendant told police it was a site used for arranging sexual encounters.
They met up at the Chetwynde Hotel in Barrow last September.
The judge dealing with the case said there would have been no offence if the girl had been 16.
A photograph of her was produced in court and the prosecution and judge said that she did look older than her years.
Paul Cummings, prosecuting, said the girl told Breckell she was 16 and sent him a photograph.
She invited him to meet in Barrow and at her suggestion, he booked a hotel for the night.
He met her in his vehicle. He would later tell police when he saw her, he realised she was under 16 and speaking to her confirmed that view.
Mr Cummings said “He did take her in his vehicle to the hotel. They checked into a double room, spent some time together in the room before going for a walk.
“They then returned to the hotel and had a meal.
“During the meal the girl told staff she was ‘frightened’ of the defendant.
“The defendant told police he had realised her true age and had not had any intention to have any sexual encounter with her and intended to take her home once they had finished their meal
“The police did accept that version was in accordance with all the circumstances known to them”.
Daniel Prowse, defending, said his client had been “foolish and naive”.
“At the point he realised she wasn’t 16 he should have gone away, but they went to the hotel and had dinner together.
“Any thoughts of a sexual encounter left his mind when he knew she wasn’t 16.”
Judge Anthony Russell said it was an unusual case.
He said: “Once you realised she was under 16, you were very foolish not to get out of the situation immediately, but instead you went to the hotel. You stayed with her some little while having a meal.”
Breckell was sentenced to 12 months supervision and told to carry out 40 hours unpaid work.