A PAEDOPHILE who targeted two young sisters has been sent back to prison after breaching his sexual harm prevention order by trying to contact them again.

Michael Heffernan was jailed for assaulting a young girl just months after he was released from prison for sending her sister sexually explicit texts.

He has now been handed another 12 months behind bars after breaching a sexual harm prevention order in relation to the siblings.

A former youth worker, Heffernan, 66, was jailed for eight and a half years in 2014 for sexually assaulting a girl.

He was already subject to an indefinite sexual harm prevention order which was imposed on him in 2011 when he was jailed for 16 months after he sent his second victim's sister sexually explicit messages.

When he was sentenced in 2014 he received another sexual harm prevention order, under which he was not allowed to contact the siblings, and was placed on the sex offenders’ register indefinitely.

However, in November last year, the siblings bumped into him in Burnley and exchanged numbers with the predatory pensioner.

Lancashire Telegraph: A previous mugshot of groomer Michael HeffernanA previous mugshot of groomer Michael Heffernan

His first victim, who he committed crimes against in 2011 when she was 12, believed she was in a relationship with the former youth worker and sent semi-naked picture messages to him after the most recent meeting.

Her younger sister - his second victim - and her mother also made contact with the pervert via texts and a fake Facebook account, which Heffernan said had been set up by one of the girls.

Heffernan's barrister told Judge Simon Medland his client had "done nothing wrong" by contacting the girls, as it was the victims who had got in touch with him rather than the other way around.

He added Heffernan had not committed any more crimes, such as contacting other children which would warrant further breach of his imposed order.

Lancashire Telegraph: Michael HeffernanMichael Heffernan

Prosecuting, Niamh McGinty said: "From January to March 2011, the defendant sent a number of sexually explicit texts to a 12-year-old girl and was jailed for 16 months and handed a sexual harm prevention order, which banned him from contacting his victim. 

"Then in 2014 he was sentenced for eight and a half years for assaulting the first victim's younger sister. 

"A restraining order was also made in relation to the sisters.

"Upon his release the defendant was monitored by the police and they were contacted on November 24 last year by a member of the public, a former officer, who was concerned about the behaviour of Heffernan towards the two women and their mother.

"The member of the public knew these women to be his previous two victims, and one of the women said she was in a relationship with him.

"The police visited his home address on December 7 and found two mobile phones with messages from his second victim, their mother, and his first victim, who had been saved in his phone under the name of 'my beautiful girl'.

"Screenshots were found from his first victim showing her in her underwear.

"Officers also found the defendant had been using a Facebook account in the name of John White and a Snapchat account to contact the siblings, who are now in their 20s."

Ms McGinty said when looking at his phone, police found no evidence of any contact with any other children, only the two sisters. 

She went on: "The victims are not happy with the prosecution's case. They appear to have been groomed by him and one even wants a relationship with him.

"They want to have contact with the defendant and want to vary the notification requirements."

Sending Heffernan back to prison, Judge Medland said: "This man is very much older than her and has offended against her and her sister.

"She is not a child anymore, but she is still a vulnerable woman.

"These women were victims of prolonged grooming by the defendant despite them being now adults."

John Woodward, for Heffernan, said the 66-year-old had been in custody for some time and couldn't have groomed anyone while in prison.

He said: "When he was released in 2019 he happened upon his first victim in Burnley town centre and since then has been approached by her.

"An application should have been made by the defendant or by the victim to have the prevention order removed.

"He pleaded guilty at the very outset to the allegations against him.

"He didn't put an alias in his phone in relation to his first victim, that was her, and the only thing he has done is contact these previous victims, not anyone else.

"His offending is directed solely at the previous victims, there's no harmful behaviour taken place and he's done nothing wrong."

Judge Medland said: "The orders are not just there to prevent the offenders from doing something, they are also there to protect people who may be victims of harmful behaviour that might have happened a long, long time ago.

"I am not sure I can agree with what you are saying.

"I don't think it's right to amend the notifications and I don't accept that nothing wrong has happened. 

"The order was there to protect someone he previously abused, someone whose view of the world and him is likely to be confused.

"Granted the victim is now in her 20s and capable of consenting with another person, but I have to approach this on the basis that the order is there to protect the victim."

Mr Woodward put it to the judge that the court was trying to control the victim's behaviour and an application to remove the conditions of the order would be made in due course. 

Judge Medland added: "This is quite a complicated set of facts, where the victim came upon you by chance and contact was resumed.

"That is not allowed under the order but at some point in the future there will be a hearing to decide whether it's right to allow contact between you and the victim.

"But because of the facts of the case, when set against the background of your previous offending, the only appropriate sentence is one of imprisonment."

Heffernan pleaded guilty to two counts of breaching a sexual harm prevention order and two counts of breaching his notification requirements and was jailed for 12 months.