A DETECTIVE who exploited four women to feed his sexual desires has walked free from court after a judge heard no-one else could care for his one-year-old child during the coronavirus lockdown.

Liverpool Crown Court heard how Stuart Lunt, who worked as a detective constable in Chorley CID, tried to pursue sexual relationships with the vulnerable women who he met in the course of his duties with the as either complainants or witnesses between 2017 and 2019.

Lunt, 36, of Greaves Close, Wigan, pleaded guilty to misconduct in a public office earlier this year.

That followed an investigation by Lancashire Police’s Integrity and Anti-Corruption Team and supervised by the Independent Office of Police Conduct.

Laura Nash, defending, asked Judge David Aubrey QC to consider "exceptional circumstances" in suspending a custodial sentence in what she said were "exceptional times".

Miss Nash explained that Lunt's wife was a designated key worker who was employed as a deputy manager at a pre-school nursery.

The couple were still living together with their children, aged six and one, but Lunt had been staying at home with the younger child, she said.

Immediate members of the Lunt family were also unable to offer assistance during the movement restrictions because they were in the vulnerable category range, the court was told.

Lunt was sentenced to 18 months, suspended for two years, and ordered to complete 250 hours unpaid work.

Passing sentence, Judge David Aubrey QC said: “You have taken advantage of vulnerable women and exploited each and every one of them, akin to grooming. You have betrayed the badge you were wearing and taken advantage of those most in need.”

Judge Aubrey QC also added that if it was not for the exceptional circumstances currently being experienced this would not have been a suspended sentence.

David Toal, prosecuting, said Lunt approached the women separately on various dates between 2017 and 2019.

He first met one of the women as part of an investigation when he issued her with a personal safety warning that her life could be under threat, said the prosecutor.

Soon after he engaged in "flirty banter" in phone messages and told the single mother she was "a pretty girl".

He later asked her out for a coffee before she blocked all contact, the court was told.

Lunt became flirtatious with a second woman, a domestic violence sufferer, and tried to chat her up during a visit to her home where he stayed for up to three hours while on duty.

She too declined his advances but then the defendant moved on to his next victim, a witness in a criminal investigation, who accepted she was "flattered" by his attention.

They went on to exchange sexually explicit messages, said Mr Toal, and at one point Lunt challenged the woman whether "she had the bottle" to meet up for sex.

The woman, who suffers from anxiety and depression, said later she felt "humiliated and "embarrassed" by her involvement with Lunt.

Lunt told a fourth woman, another complainant, that his marriage was in difficulties and there was "no fire" between him and his wife.

The defendant made an excuse to his wife that he was popping out to get some petrol and drove to a secluded spot where he met the complainant who performed oral sex on him.

The woman later said she had told Lunt she wanted a relationship but that he was only interested in sex.

Mr Toal said: "She described him as someone desperate for attention and gratification."

Speaking after sentencing, Det Chf Insp Jane Webb said: “Firstly I would like to thank and commend the victims in this case for having the bravery to come forward and report these allegations to us. Today’s outcome would not have been possible without them.

“Police officers are expected to adhere to the highest standards of behaviour in both their public and private lives and Stuart Lunt has clearly failed to adhere to those standards.

“He has risked undermining the public’s confidence in the police service as a whole and the fantastic work undertaken every day by the vast majority of our staff.

“We will continue to proactively target malpractice and wrongdoing in Lancashire Constabulary, as we did with this case, to ensure that the communities we serve can have confidence and trust in us.”

Lunt has tendered his resignation but will still be subject to misconduct proceedings.