Man who groomed schoolgirl and persuaded her to run away from home is jailed for six years (From The Northern Echo)
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Hartlepool man who persuaded schoolgirl to run away from home jailed for six years
A MAN who groomed a schoolgirl on the internet before persuading her to travel hundreds of miles to meet him for sex was today jailed for six years.
Sean Clode was told by a Teesside Crown Court judge that he created every parent's worst nightmare by encouraging the teenager to run away from home.
The 14-year-old secretly saved money, said she was having a sleep-over at a friend's home, skipped school, and took a train from northern Scotland to Hartlepool.
Her frantic father travelled through the night from the Highlands after discovering her missing, and said: "I didn't know if I'd ever see her alive again."
Clode, 22, and the youngster were found in a tent on sand dunes on the outskirts of Hartlepool after a "critical incident" police search involving a helicopter.
He was found guilty of meeting a child after sexual grooming, abducting a child and two charges of sexual activity with a child after a four-day trial last month.
Jailing him today, Judge Howard Crowson branded him cunning and selfish, and told him: "Her outlook has been completely distorted by your influence."
Clode, of Glamis Walk, Hartlepool, was also ordered to sign on the sex offenders' register for life, and was banned from having unsupervised contact with under-16s.
Throughout his trial, unemployed Clode denied he had hatched a plan with the youngster to meet, and said he was shocked when she turned up in his home town.
He also denied having sex with her and said any transfer of bodily fluids must have happened when he was asleep in the tent and the girl performed a sex act on him.
The court heard that the pair had communicated almost every day for nine months after meeting through the interactive Xbox Live shooting game Call of Duty.
Judge Crowson rejected Clode's account and said he had somehow persuaded the girl to change her story and account for the forensic evidence.
Initially, she told police that they had had sex during their overnight stay in the tent, but months later she made a fresh statement clearing Clode.
His barrister, Rebecca Brown, said their initial meeting had been by chance, and said: "This was not a deliberate attempt to look for underage people."