A PERVERT who groomed three schoolgirls online has been jailed for five years.

Callum Hope, from Darlington, targeted the youngsters on Facebook using fake profiles, Teesside Crown Court was told.

The 20-year-old, who was 18 at the time, persisted in sending her messages despite being told by one girl that she was just 12.

Hope contacted her privately through a messenger service, saying hello, and adding a kiss, following which further messages were exchanged before he asked for her mobile telephone number.

During the messages, the victim told him, on a number of occasions, that she was 12-years-old, said prosecutor Harry Hadfield.

The victim’s mother discovered the contact between the pair where Hope asked the girl to meet him.

Mr Hadfield said the victim’s mother reported this incident to police and Hope was arrested by Detective Constable Mick Trodden, and his mobile devices were seized.

Experts examined the devices, and they were found to contain indecent images of children, said Mr Hadfield.

Hope was quizzed again about the pictures, and charged with possession of indecent images of children, while the investigation into the online chats with the child continued.

At around the same time, Det Con Trodden was approached by officers from North Yorkshire who reported a 13-year-old girl had been contacted by two males using Facebook profile accounts in the names of Kyle Manning and Cameron Price.

An initial investigation identified that the profiles were being used by Hope and messages of similar content had been exchanged.

Hope was arrested again, and admitted creating the two fake accounts and communicating with the youngster.

In July last year, Cleveland Police became aware of the investigation after an 11-year-old's mother checked her daughter’s mobile phone and discovered inappropriate messages exchanged with someone calling themseld Cameron Price, who had also arranged to meet the victim.

Mr Hadfield said messages of an explicit nature had been exchanged between the pair, and Hope was again arrested.

Hope, of Aldgrove Way, Darlington, admitted five charges of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, and possessing indecent images of children.

After the case, Det Con Trodden said: "These crimes further highlight the dangers open to children indulging in social media sites.

"Unless you know for certain who you are talking to, you all too easily put yourself in danger.

"Children don't know who they're communicating with, I urge parents to actively know.

"As the victims of Callum Hope's crimes rebuild their lives' I hope he should use his time incarcerated to reflect on his actions before he looks to continue with his life when he will be managed in the community."