A UNIVERSITY student used the internet to sexually groom a Wigan schoolgirl almost half his age, a court heard.
Craig Donaldson engaged in various sexually explicit on-line chats with the 13-year-old, lied about his age and even travelled down from his home in Scotland to Wigan to meet her.
The 27-year-old, who is taking an MA in civil engineering at Strathclyde University, was told by a judge that the case passed the custody threshold, but in jail he would not receive the treatment he “so earnestly should have”.
Judge Robert Warnock imposed a 12-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, and placed him under supervision for two years on condition he attends the community sexual offences group work programme.
“You, for your own sexual gratification were grooming this child.” said the judge.
“You were grooming that child with a view to obtaining further sexual gratification for yourself. You travelled south to meet her, and it is to your credit that nothing more than cuddling and kissing took place. You were a man of good character and you have simply thrown that away.”
The judge rejected claims that Donaldson had acted out of immaturity and said he had known his behaviour was unacceptable.
“My concern is that impressionable and sometimes stupid 13 and 14-year-old girls are ensnared by people like you, pretending to be younger on the internet and seeking sexual gratification,” he said. He imposed an indefinite Sexual Offenders’ Prevention Order banning him from unsupervised contact with under 16-year-olds and having contact with children using social net working sites.
Donaldson has to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register for seven years.
Joseph Allman, prosecuting, told Liverpool Crown Court that the girl lives in Wigan and Donaldson in Scotland and they met via a social networking site before August 2009.
They began communicating via their email addresses and MSM Messenger, and during chats she told him she was only 13.
They also chatted about watching pornography “and that set the tone of conduct in further contact,” said Mr Allman.
Donaldson was 25, but told her he was 17 and was about to start college.
She felt she could unburden herself to him and they chatted into the early hours of the morning, and she confided about an earlier relationship she had had.
He asked her to send him a picture of herself in school uniform and made inappropriate sexual comments. He also talked of her being his girlfriend and she eventually agreed to that suggestion.
The girl, who self-harmed with a razor, lacked self-confidence about her appearance and Donaldson would tell her she was gorgeous and sexy in the photos she had sent him. He spoke of having sex with her and told her “love you babe.”
He also persuaded her to use a webcam and asked her to show him her body and he would show his.
They continued having sexual conversations and he said he would come to Wigan, which he did on September 27 that year, said Mr Allman.
They only had half an hour together as he was late and she had to be in by 9pm, and they walked around the streets holding hands.
They hugged but she refused to kiss him. When they parted he said she had said they could have sex but she replied that she always said random things.
They continued their on-line chats but a friend of the girl told a teacher, who called the police, and Donaldson was arrested on November 3.
Donaldson, 27, of Loudens Walk, Denny, Sterlingshire, pleaded guilty to meeting a child following sexual grooming.
Adrian Palmer, defending, said that Donaldson, who has no previous convictions, was very intelligent and had been commended by his university.
His parents were with him in court and he was embarrassed that they had now heard the details of his behaviour. “The insight he requires would not be acquired sitting in a cell,” he said.