“You thought, and on reasonable grounds, that she was over 16.”
A 28-year-old office worker was jailed Thursday over sexual activity with a 12-year-old girl who presented herself as an adult.
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Carl Hodgson was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison by a court in Manchester, England, where he lived, and was put on the sex offender registry for life.
He last year filmed the girl on his phone, and sent an image to a friend, commenting that she had an “unreal body,” the Manchester Crown Court heard. He also masturbated while the girl watched.
Hodgson had previously pleaded guilty to causing or inciting a child under age 13 to engage in sexual activity, as well as to engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child, distributing an indecent photograph of a child and making indecent photographs of a child.
The illicit encounter took place last Feb. 23, when Hodgson brought the girl, now 13, to his apartment after meeting her on a popular dating app. She was using a fake name and claiming to be an “experienced” 19-year-old woman.
During the sexual liaison, Hodgson recorded a video of the girl and took three photographs of her, including the one of her in lingerie that he sent to his friend via WhatsApp.
“Mine was decent. Nailed that bird, unreal bod,” he commented, also describing the girl as “filth.”
His lawyer, Alexander Leach, told the court that those comments were “simply male bravado and bragging” and Hogson had not had sexual intercourse with the girl.
His client had already lost his home and job and “suffered the inevitable stigma brought with offending of this sort,” he said.
Judge David Stockdale said in sentencing Hodgson that the girl “was by reason of her age highly vulnerable to exploitation and she was no doubt impressed by you.”
“This is most serious offending as you now fully appreciate,” Stockdale admonished. “These effects, in many cases, last for the rest of the child’s life.”
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Stockdale noted that the girl was shown to be in a “withdrawn state” and unable or unwilling to communicate.
After she went missing from home on the night in question, her family found Instagram messages from Hodgson on her phone and alerted police. She disappeared often enough that her mother had started sleeping downstairs in their home to keep her from slipping out.
Despite the seriousness of Hodgson’s crimes, the judge said he believed that the defendant was genuinely remorseful and noted the many testimonials he had received to the defendant’s good character.
Stockdale said he had taken into account that Hodgson “did not believe” the girl was underage, saying, “You thought, and on reasonable grounds, that she was over 16.”
Under British law, there is no defense of mistaken reasonable belief in age when sex offense complainant is younger than 13.
The state did not present evidence that Hodgson raped the girl, and Stockdale ordered that he be formally declared not guilty of the charge. No evidence was also offered against single counts of grooming and child abduction.
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