Man admits 'grooming' teen on internet

A MIDDLE-aged man has admitted "grooming" a 14-year-old Suffolk girl over the internet and then sexually assaulting her in one of the first prosecutions of its kind.

A MIDDLE-aged man has admitted "grooming" a 14-year-old Suffolk girl over the internet and then sexually assaulting her in one of the first prosecutions of its kind.

Engineer John Mansfield, 42, admitted yesterday communicating via a computer with a 14-year-old Newmarket girl – with the intent to commit a sexual offence – and three charges of sexually assaulting her.

Last night, police said it was one of the first times a prosecution for the new crime of internet grooming, introduced in the Sexual Offences Act 2003, had ever been successfully brought.

Mansfield, a father-of-two from Bury, in Lancashire, who is separated from his wife, admitted sexually assaulting the girl on three separate occasions between June 4 and 11 this year after contacting her via the internet.

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Having struck up a relationship with the girl, by posing as a child, Mansfield travelled from his home to meet the girl in Cambridge, and one of the assaults took place at a guesthouse, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

Mansfield, who could face up to 12 years in prison, also admitted possessing 2,614 indecent photographs of children, but denied 16 charges of making indecent photographs of children under 16. Those charges will lie on file.

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Speaking after the hearing, Det-con Mark Scott, of Newmarket CID, who led the investigation into Mansfield's internet activities, branded him "a predator" and said the case sent out an important message to parents.

He told the EADT: "The whole episode has been a learning experience as this is one of the first times a grooming case has ever been successful.

"Suffolk police has specifically targeted computer crime and has introduced an online investigation team and a high-tech unit who are skilled in obtaining evidence from computers and IT equipment and their work was vital in bringing this prosecution.

"Furthermore, there is a clear message which has emerged from this, which is that parents need to become computer literate in order to successfully monitor their children's online activities.

"People who indulge in this sort of crime are highly devious and skilled at preying on innocent children.

"But there is also a message to criminals that these incidents will not be tolerated and we are doing all we can to stop do them."

The case has been adjourned until December 10 at Ipswich Crown Court for sentencing, and Mansfield was remanded in custody until that date.

Following the hearing, a spokesman for the NSPCC said: "The Sexual Offences Act 2003 is the most significant package of sex offences legislation by this government and a major improvement in the safeguarding of children.

"The NSPCC urges judges to use the full force of the law when dealing with adults who seek to sexually harm children. There must be nowhere left to hide for those who think nothing of destroying a child's life to gratify their own desires."

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