A YOUNG Wigan schoolgirl has been left traumatised after a paedophile tried to entice her into his car, a court heard.
But the 11-year-old at least can now be comforted that her tormentor is behind bars – after a warning posted on social media by her mum led to his arrest.
The victim was walking alone on a summer’s day along an isolated road in Wigan when a 4x4 vehicle driven by Stacey John Hughes suddenly pulled up in front of her.
It stopped half on and half off the pavement by Bickershaw Bridge and 36-year-old Hughes started speaking to the girl, who was out looking for a friend’s lost cat.
He asked the youngster, who was standing close to the passenger window, for directions but she could see that he had exposed himself and was performing a sex act.
Harry Pepper, prosecuting, told Liverpool Crown Court that the youngster “was frozen to the spot” and feared for her safety. “She was thinking ‘if I don’t get out of here I will be seriously regretting it. I am really, really, really scared’,” he said.
“He lent over to open the passenger door and was saying ‘get in’ but she walked off. She was so distressed she did not initially go home and walked around crying.”
A neighbour saw her distressed and crying and when she got home and told her shocked mother she was “totally distraught and could hardly get her words out and her mother felt sick,” said Mr Pepper.
Luckily a bus driver had passed the 4x4 during the incident and he looked at the vehicle carefully as his friend has a similar Nissan Navarro and thought it might be his.
When he saw the driver talking to a child he became concerned and stopped at the next bus stop and noted down the registration number. Later while looking on Facebook he spotted warnings to children about the incident and he rang the police.
Hughes, a freelance gardener, of Church Street, Golborne, was arrested and was picked out on a video identification parade by the girl. When interviewed he denied the allegations.
Mr Pepper said that a victim impact statement from the child revealed she had suffered bad dreams nightly after the incident and her confidence had been badly damaged. She now has a phobia of 4x4s and the family had had to move and she had changed schools.
Hughes, who has a previous conviction involving harassing his ex-partner with whom he has a young child, pleaded guilty to inciting the girl to engage in sexual activity on August 2 last year.
Jailing him for 18 months Judge Stephen Clarke said that Hughes had been “cajoling her to get in the car.
“The offence is very worrying and the court is concerned about your behaviour which involved an element of planning,” he told Hughes.
He added that the offence had had a marked effect on the child and her family.
The judge ordered him to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register for 10 years, banned him from working with children and made a Sexual Offences Prevention Order restricting his contact with children for 10 years.
After the hearing Det Con Sheena Maerevoet, of INPT West, Wigan, said: “This is a fine example of the community working together to help us take a sex offender off the streets.
“While we always encourage victims and their families to call the police in the first instance, it is heartening to see the family taking a proactive step to warn others.
“The Facebook post, combined with the quick thinking of the bus driver, helped us catch Hughes before he could approach any other children.
“I also want to applaud the victim and her family for their bravery throughout this investigation.”