A MAN who sexually groomed and abused a teenage girl for more than two years has been jailed.

David Rawcliffe, 28, was sentenced at Preston Crown Court yesterday after pleading guilty to eight counts of sexual activity with a girl under the age of 16, and one count of engaging in sexual activity while in the presence of a child, without their consent.

The court heard how the abuse had taken place between 2016 and 2018, when the victim was between the ages of 13 and 15.

Rawcliffe, of Stonyhurst Road, Blackburn, had inappropriately touched his victim on several separate occasions during 2018, with the final instance leading her to tell her mother and subsequently the police about what had happened.

Upon being interviewed by the police, Rawcliffe made a full admission, going further than the accounts described by the victim, and admitting to extra incidents that had occurred when she was only 13.

Prosecuting, Barbara Webster read the victim’s personal statement in which it was heard that the teenager had suffered severe emotional distress since the events, found it hard to integrate with her peers and follow up with her education, and now only felt comfortable in the presence of females.

In mitigation, the court heard how after a psychological assessment, Rawcliffe was deemed to have a low IQ and suffered from social psychological issues which rendered him mentally vulnerable.

Defending, Huw Edwards said that his client had no previous convictions, and was currently in full-time employment, but he had however suffered from drug and alcohol addiction in the past, something which he had sought help for and was dealing with.

It was also stated that the defendant had come forward and admitted to the offences at the first opportunity, and had pleaded guilty to all the charges.

Mr Edwards said: “While his actions are abhorrent and have caused no end of damage to the complainant, he has accepted what he has done is wrong and has attempted to better himself.”

Summing up the sentencing, Judge Mark Brown said: “It’s clear to me that your grooming behaviour developed and was continuing to develop.

“It doesn’t take much imagination to think what might have happened next if she hadn’t told someone.

“It’s evident from the victim’s personal statement that your actions have had significant impact on her. She has described how her appetite, sleep and confidence have all been affected, and how she’s scared of older men.

“Only time will tell what the long-term impact will be but I hope that following this hearing she will be able to achieve some closure.”

Rawcliffe was given 28 months in prison, made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order, and will be placed on the sex offenders' register for the next 10 years.