Night in hotel means year in jail

A 22-YEAR-OLD Ribble Valley man who defied an official warning not to have any contact with a 15-year-old girl has been jailed.

A court heard that Sean Collings spent the night with her at a Blackburn hotel where they drank and watched TV. The next morning the girl returned to her children’s home of her own volition, having gone missing the night before.

She was spoken to by officers from the Engage team in the Blackburn area, telling them in interview that she and Collings had met for the first time around a week earlier, after they began chatting on the social networking website Facebook.

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The girl said sex had taken place between them on the earlier occasion, with the girl having said she was over 16, but that nothing sexual happened when they ended up spending a night at the hotel.

Appearing at Preston Crown Court, Collings, of Pendleton Road, Wiswell, was given a 12-month jail term, having admitted an offence of child abduction. At a previous court hearing his not guilty plea to an an allegation of committing an offence with intent to commit a sexual offence was accepted by the prosecution.

Miss Emma Kehoe (prosecuting) said there had been a crash in early October while the girl was driving the defendant’s car. He was arrested and reported for driving matters and was also served with a statutory notice instructing him not to have anything more to do with the girl because of her age.

The following week there were concerns at the girl’s children’s home that she had disappeared and gone to meet the defendant. Operation Engage officers spoke to the girl when she returned to the home of her own volition the next morning. She disclosed she had been with Collings the previous evening.

She also said they had met up for the first time the previous week, having begun chatting on Facebook. The defendant had checked into a Blackburn hotel where they drank alcohol, watched TV and popped out a few hours later to buy more alcopops.

She spoke of Collings falling asleep. She stayed awake and listened to music. The following morning they got a taxi and went home. The teenager said nothing of a sexual nautre had happened that night, but the previous week she had had sex with him, having told him she was over 16. The girl also said that if she had not wanted it to happen, it would not have happened.

Mr Bob Elias (defending) said the criminality of the offence was in Collings defying well meaning attempts by the police to warn him off, as an attachment had been seen between the defendant and the girl. Collings had ignored that.

He added: “This is not a predatory alpha male chasing young girls. This is a rather naive, gauche man who struck up an acquaintance with someone who, if she didn’t set her cap at him, wasn’t adverse to having an intimate relationship.

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“She seemed to be in charge of her own destiny. She seems to have been wearing the trousers, in truth.

“He is younger than his age, in terms of emotional maturity. He was out of his depth and made a stupid mistake with this girl.”

Judge Simon Newell told Collings as he passed sentence: “You persisted in your association with the girl. You caused worry and distress to people in authority. You knew her age. You had had the warning.

“I have come to the conclusion there has to be a custodial sentence here.”