A MAN who encouraged underage girls to commit sexual acts during online webcam chats was told he should expect to receive a prison sentence on his return to court, next month.

The warning was given by a judge to defendant Martin Kew after he admitted a total of eight counts in breach of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, when he appeared at a plea hearing at Durham Crown Court.

His barrister, Joanne Kidd, said there was no reason why the charges should not be put to Kew.

He admitted four counts of causing or inciting a girl under 16 to engage in sexual activity, and four of engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child.

All took place on dates between January 21, 2013, and February 5, 2014, when the defendant, now 24, was aged either 20 or 21.

The offences involved two unnamed girls, one aged 13 at the time, and other between the ages of 14 and 15, and involved him persuading them to perform sex acts on themselves, as well as him performing a sex act on himself, knowing the girls were viewing via web cam.

Miss Kidd told the court that the guilty pleas were indicated following a case conference at the end of August and the court was notified on September 4 that he would be making the admissions.

She asked for sentence to be delayed pending preparation of a background probation on Kew by the Probation Service.

Agreeing to her request, Judge Christopher Prince said as the sentencing guidelines indicate a theoretic range of sentences from community non-custodial level up to three years in prison for such offences, he was prepared to grant the defendant bail, pending the preparation of the reports.

But he added: “I’ll not remand him in custody, but he must understand he must expect to receive a custodial sentence on his return to court.”

Judge Prince said he was only prepared to grant bail on strict conditions in the period prior to the sentencing hearing, including restricting the engineer’s use of the internet to work-related purposes to communicate with his employer to discover his daily job schedule.

He bailed Kew to an address in Campion Drive, Tanfield Lea, near Stanley, until sentence on November 3.