A PERVERTED pensioner followed an 11-year-old girl onto the back seat of a bus and put his hand up her skirt while her mother and brother sat yards away.

Burnley Crown Court heard how 71-year-old Alfie Holt later claimed that his hand had accidentally made contact with the girl’s knee when he had reached out to steady himself as the bus turned a corner sharply.

He later said he had been drunk, could not remember anything and was not sexually interested in children. Judge Richard Gioserano rejected that claim saying he was in no doubt Holt had “distorted sexual thinking”.

Prosecuting, Lisa Worsley said the victim, who was wearing her school uniform, got onto the bus heading towards Burnley with her family at 3.45pm on June 18 and sat on the back seat.

The child’s mother became concerned when she saw Holt, who was already on the bus and had been staring at the victim, get up from his seat and move next to her daughter.

She told her daughter to sit closer to her but the victim, unaware of the danger, said she was fine.

The child’s mother said she continued looking backwards towards her daughter and heard her say: “I’m sorry.”

At that point she saw Holt touch her leg with his hand.

Ms Worsley said the incident was witnessed more clearly by a male passenger who was so concerned about Holt’s “strange behaviour” that he took his headphones out so he could hear what was going on.

He said he saw Holt put his hand so far up the girl’s skirt he could see her knickers.

At that point the male witness stood up, detained Holt and informed the driver what was going on.

The victim, who was left in tears, told police that as soon as Holt sat next to her he began asking if she was going to Burnley.

She said she was touched on the leg by the defendant but she had apologised to him, thinking she had accidentally touched him. She said Holt responded by saying: “What, what, what?”

She said he then touched her on the leg for a second time but this time much higher up.

In his police interview Holt said he had got onto the bus and accepted that having seen the victim he moved to sit at the back of the bus. He offered no explanation as to why he moved seats.

Ms Worsley said Holt then essentially said it was due to the movement of the bus going around the corner which had caused him to make accidental contact.

Holt, of Fairweather Court, Padiham, pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a child under 13.

The court heard that Holt had 12 previous convictions for 20 offences, including attempted rape and three indecent assaults.

Defending, Isobel Thomas said Holt’s previous convictions were of some age and he had no predatory attitudes towards children. She said: “He is somebody who has worked throughout his life, largely as a painter and decorator. He has been retired for 10 years. He is residing in a residential home for elderly people."

Judge Gioserano said: “This was not simply stroking the girl’s hair. You actually got your hand up her skirt. It must have been frightening for her.”

Jailing Holt for nine months, but suspending it for two years, Judge Gioserano said children would be better protected if the defendant engaged in a sexual offender treatment programme.

Holt must complete 20 rehabilitation days, attend a sexual offences treatment programme and sign the sex offenders register for 10 years. He was also made subject of a 10-year sexual harm prevention order.