Man, 22, groomed teen over internet

Charles McElroy, 22, had his 18-month prison sentence suspended for two years
Charles McElroy, 22, had his 18-month prison sentence suspended for two years

A man has pleaded guilty to engaging in sexual activity with 14-year-old Blackpool girl after grooming her over the internet.

Charles McElroy, 22, had his 18-month prison sentence suspended for two years but has been barred from working with and associating with children by a 10-year sexual offence protection order.

He would clearly have been aware of her vulnerabilities

Preston Crown Court heard he had started chatting to the girl, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, on Christmas Eve 2014, while living in the resort with his grandparents.

The pair had chatted for three weeks, usually at night before his behaviour changed.

Prosecuting, Brian McKenna said: “In early January 2015, there is a reference in conversation by the girl making it clear to the defendant she was 14, had never had a proper boyfriend and she says that she’s surprised he’s talking to her as she is only 14.

“At about that time the defendant began to tell her about his girlfriend or former girlfriend, moving on to telling her what they used to do together.

“The girl was taken into his confidence.

She told him she self-harmed, which her mother didn’t know, and confided in him her concerns her parents’ marriage was breaking down.

“He would clearly have been aware of her vulnerabilities.

“From January 9, the conversations at the defendant’s instigation became increasingly sexualised so that among various other things he began to ask her about her underwear, and if she wished she had ‘someone next to her’.”

The court was told he had asked the teenager about her virginity and went on to describe lurid details about what he wanted to do to her.

Mr McKenna added: “The conversations were also marked by him telling her to delete the conversations.”

The court heard in January, the defendant visited the girl at her home to listen to her playing a musical instrument.

He hugged her and moved his hands to touch her.

McElroy also kissed the schoolgirl, pulled her onto him and touched her.

McElroy, now of Windmill Lane, Warrington, was arrested after the girl told her parents. After his arrest he denied anything had occurred.

But he later pleaded guilty to charges of meeting a child following grooming and sexual activity with a child.

He has been ordered to take part in the community sex offender’s programme.