‘You behaved in a predatory fashion’: Bolton man’s sex talks with girl, 14

A MAN who befriended a 14-year-old girl on Facebook, repeatedly met her before school and exchanged sexual pictures with her.

Bolton Crown Court heard how Daniel Middleton, who used a false name and age, was caught after an ex-girlfriend became concerned about messages she spotted between him and the teenager on his mobile phone and contacted police.

Middleton, now aged 26, was spared an immediate jail sentence after Recorder Nigel Grundy heard how the he has not committed any further offenses since the encounter with the teenager five years ago, he has ‘intellectual deficits’ and is remorseful.

Nicola Daley, prosecuting, told the court how Middleton, who was using the name Jamie Kane and claimed to be aged 17, sent a friend request to the girl via Facebook in May 2017.

“That led to them having contact initially via social media and there were messages which were sexualised in nature,” said Miss Daley.

“The messages between them revealed, from the very beginning really, that the defendant knew she was 14.”

The messages quickly became sexualised, and Middleton, who was then aged 20 and 21, chatted with the girl up to 10 times a day.

Middleton would meet the girl before and after she went to school, met her at Cash Converters in Bolton and sometimes went to her mother’s home.

He sent the girl a picture of his private parts and asked her to send him naked pictures of herself.

“It appeared to be the defendant’s intention that he wished to engage in sexual activity with her knowing that she was a child,” said Miss Daley, who added that the girl and Middleton would often video call each other and, on one occasion he appeared to be performing a sex act on himself and encouraging her to show him her private parts.

The court heard that the girl was upset and blocked him on Facebook when he eventually revealed his real name and age to her.

On June 29, 2017 a safeguarding officer, concerned about the teenager’s behaviour, talked to her and also saw the messages on her phone which has passed between her and Middleton.

After his arrest Middleton claimed the girl had initially contacted him and they had arranged to meet as friends.

He stated that he used a false name to disguise himself from his ex-girlfriend and that he thought it was alright to send sexual messages as nothing physical was happening.

In a victim statement, read out in court the girl stated: “In 2017, when I was 14 years old, I was a vulnerable child with lots of personal issues to deal with.

“I did not fully understand the impact of what was taking place and I was being groomed for sexual exploitation.”

Middleton, of Marion Street, Bolton, pleaded guilty of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, sexual grooming of a child, and engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child.

He only pleaded guilty to some of the offenses shortly before a trial, which was delayed due to the Covid lockdown, was due to take place.

Colin Buckle, defending, stressed that Middleton, a father-of-two, has no previous convictions, has not offended since, is remorseful and there is a realistic prospect of him being rehabilitated.

He added that he Middleton has “intellectual deficits”.

“He simply can’t sustain relationships with someone his age and so he made what was a horrendous decision to contact somebody much younger. It is not an excuse but it maybe an explanation,” said Mr Buckle, who added that prison would be an “unmitigated disaster” for the defendant.

Sentencing him to two years in prison, suspended for two years, Recorder Grundy told Middleton: “We cannot get away from the fact that in June 2017 you behaved in a predatory, manipulative, reckless and risky fashion, seeking sexual gratification via the internet from a 14-year-old.

“While you did not deliberately intend to harm her, it is clear from her statement you did.”

As part of his sentence Middleton was ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work, 40 days of rehabilitation activities and must participate in a sexual offenders’ behavior programme.

He was placed on the sex offender’s register and made subject to a sexual harm prevention order for 10 years.

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