A man was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison after he spent the night with a 12-year-old girl who had posed as a 19-year-old on her online dating profile. Although the presiding judge acknowledged genuine remorse and regret, he said the offense was "most serious" in nature.
Office worker, 28-year-old Carl Hodgson, invited the girl to his apartment and sent lewd images of her in a body stocking to a friend, bragging that he had "nailed" her "unreal" body, BBC reported.
Hodgson, of Jordan Street, Manchester, reportedly filmed the girl on his phone and pleasured himself in the process, the Manchester Crown Court heard. He was ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life after pleading guilty to inciting a child under 13 to engage in sex acts. The 28-year-old also admitted to distributing an indecent photograph of a child, making indecent photographs of a child, and engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child.
The girl's family reportedly found Instagram messages from Hodgson on her phone after she went missing from home in February 2018 and immediately alerted authorities.
The duo first came in touch through a popular adult dating app where the victim had assumed a different name and claimed she was 19 years of age, the court heard. Hodgson eventually invited her to his residence, took inappropriate pictures of her in his bedroom, and boasted about "nailing" the girl to a friend on WhatsApp.
Alexander Leach, Hodgson's barrister, claimed his client had not engaged in sexual intercourse with the girl and said it was "simply male bravado and bragging." While Hodgson "must have known she was significantly younger than him", he genuinely thought she was older than 16 at least, Leach said. Judge David Stockdale QC ordered a formal not guilty verdict be returned after the Crown offered no evidence against separate charges of rape, grooming, or child abduction.
In his closing statement, the judge acknowledged that Hodgson's remorse and regret were genuine and that he was satisfied by the same. However, the girl was shown to be in a "withdrawn state" and unable or unwilling to communicate, Stockdale said. He told Hodgson the victim was "by reason of her age highly vulnerable to exploitation and she was no doubt impressed by you."
While Judge Stockdale understood that Hodgson "thought, and on reasonable grounds, that she was over 16", he said the offense was "most serious" in nature. Plus, there is no defense of mistaken reasonable belief in age if a sex offense plaintiff is under 13, according to the law.