Man who sent ‘sexually charged’ messages to 13-year-old girl avoids jail

Paul Smith was jailed for attacking a grandfather in a pub PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Paul Smith was jailed for attacking a grandfather in a pub PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood - Credit: Archant

A man who sent 'sexually charged' messages to a 13-year-old girl and met her on several occasions has avoided jail.

Gary Papworth met the teenager in February 2017, and would message her regularly, also meeting up with her at Burger King.

The 26-year-old denied sexual communication with a child, despite making "a confession" in police interview, but was found guilty after a four day trial.

The court heard he would send sexually explicit messages to the girl, even after he found out her real age.

On one occasion he attempted to divert one of his victim's friends to a private messaging platform.

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Darren Sno, mitigating for Papworth, told Norwich Crown Court: "The complainant did not participate in the trial and so the young girl involved did not have to go through the court process.

"Before February 2017 there is no evidence to suggest the defendant was actively communicating with girls under 16.

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"The defendant had met with this young girl on a number of occasions but there is no evidence to suggest that sort of activity had gone on before."

Mr Sno added at the time Papworth's relationship appeared to be breaking down and he had a young child with his partner.

He added there have been "underlying mental health issues".

Judge Andrew Shaw, sentencing Papworth, said his conviction had been "inevitable".

"The answers you gave in police interview amounted to a confession," he said.

"There is no doubt at some point you became aware of her true age. Even with that knowledge you continued to send her sexually charged messages.

"She was simply ill-equipped emotionally to cope with them.

"You were plainly pressuring her into acquiescing to something she did not want to do."

He added a "troubling aspect" of the case was that a friend of the girl had begun messaging Papworth using her phone.

He said: "You are a troubling combination of childlike and callow, but with the sophistication and maturity of an adult man."

Papworth, of South end Road, Hunstanton, was given 12 months in prison suspended for two years.

He was also ordered to carry out 40 days of rehabilitation and 200 hours of unpaid work.

He will be put on the sex offenders register for 10 years and was given a sexual harm prevention order for 10 years.

He was also made to pay £600 in costs of bringing the case to trial.

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