A YOUNG man who had sex with a 14-year-old girl in a wood after ‘closing his mind’ to the fact that she might be under-age has been ordered to take part in a sex offender programme.
Daniel Hayes had originally denied a charge of sexual activity with a child, but changed his plea to guilty on the first day of his trial at Warwick Crown Court.
Judge Sylvia de Bertodano said she would have given him a 10-month suspended prison sentence – but that would not give time for him to complete a sex offender programme of up to 100 days.
So instead Hayes (21) of Larch Tree Avenue, Tile Hill, Coventry, was given a three-year community order with conditions of attending the programme and a rehabilitation activity, and was ordered to register as a sex offender for five years.
But the judge warned him: “If you breach this order, 10 months is the appropriate sentence which will be imposed.”
Prosecutor Christopher Hewertson said that in 2017 Hayes, who was then 19, became involved in Snapchat conversations with a 14-year-old girl, who was in care.
They discussed meeting, and the girl, who accepted she was doing much of the asking initially, said the first time they met, the extent of their contact was kissing.
The girl, who sent pictures of herself and asked if he wanted ‘nudes,’ says he was aware of her age, and in one message, indicating he realised she was under-age, Hayes commented: “Shame you’re too young.”
As they discussed meeting again, she said she wanted to perform a sex act on him, to which he responded: “You won’t though, will you?” But she insisted: “I will, Dan, I swear I will.”
Hayes, who had a girlfriend at the time, told her in a suggestive text that they would have sex.
When they met in the Canley area, they went into a wood where ‘there was some kissing and cuddling, and then they had full sex up against a tree,’ said Mr Hewertson.
And afterwards Hayes sent a message telling her: “Wow, that was so good.”
The girl later revealed to someone at a care home that she had had sex with someone who was 19 or 20, and when the police then spoke to her, she said she had felt uncomfortable about it, but had felt under pressure because that was what he had wanted.
But Judge de Bertodano observed: “There is no indication in the messages that she’s under pressure.”
Graham Russell, defending, said the pre-sentence report revealed Hayes had been raised by strict, over-protective parents, which had prevented him from forming normal social relationships.
“He was a young, impressionable, lonely young man at the time. It is dangerous to suggest he knew how to manipulate her. An extraordinary circumstance he had never encountered before was presented to him.”
Mr Russell said Hayes was now beginning to understand the girl’s vulnerability because of her circumstances, but that he was also a vulnerable young man, to the extent that last year he had been hospitalised suffering from malnutrition.
Judge de Bertodano told Hayes: “She was 14 years old, and you were aware it was likely she was under 16. She was also a child in care, and therefore vulnerable in another way.
“I accept you did not know that, but if you have sex with and under-16-year-old, it is a risk you take.
“She expresses a wish to meet you and have sex with you. To start with the requests all came from her, but towards the end you very foolishly agree to meet her in order to have sex.
“The reason this is a serious offence is because she was a child. If she was 16 you would not be committing any offence at all. But children of that age are protected for a reason, no matter how mature they seem.
“You were 19 at the time, not a child, but still a teenager, and you are rightly described as a somewhat lonely young man. I do take the view this was entirely out of character, and I also take into account your own vulnerabilities.”