A man who had sex with a 14-year-old girl and was found with her when she was reported missing, has narrowly avoided an immediate jail term.
Jerome Toft, 18, of no fixed abode but formerly of Lancaster, pleaded guilty to sexual activity with a child and detaining a child without lawful authority after being found in a tent with the girl.
He was given nine months in a young offenders’ institution, suspended for two years, a 16-week curfew, and two years supervision.
Prosecuting at Preston Crown Court, Peter Barr said: “The defendant and the girl first met at a friend’s party when she was 14 and that was at the end of December 2013 and they began a friendship.
“The matters first came to the attention of police when her father contacted them on January 21 saying he was concerned about the nature of their relationship, not least because he had seen an Instagram image which showed the defendant in her bed with his top off.
“The girl does not support the prosecution and would not assist in the case other than admitting an incident of intercourse.
“The defendant was served with a section 2 notice under the Child Abduction Act warning him to stay away because she was 15, and her family did not wish him to have dealings with her.
“However on May 5 he was in breach of that and was arrested and cautioned.
“The father then reported on May 10 she was missing from home and the defendant was arrested. He was living rough in a tent and she was found with him.
“The defendant was interviewed, and stated there had been a relationship. He said it was their intention to have a normal relationship and have a family together.”
A second breach of the notice occured on May 17 at McDonald’s in Lancaster.
The court heard the defendant, who has no previous convictions, told probation officers he wants nothing more to do with the girl.
Judge Simon Altham said it was a “persistent deliberate flouting of the law”.
“You have to appreciate how seriously the court regards this,” he told Toft.
“When you turn 18 you also acquire certain responsibilities.”