A MAN who engaged in, “a destructive relationship for his own sexual desires”, has been warned he is facing an inevitable prison sentence.

Those were the comments of Judge Jonathan Carroll after a Durham Crown Court jury found David Potts guilty of three charges arising from his “inappropriate” relationship with an underage girl.

The 53-year-old defendant previously admitted a series of other charges relating to sexualised messages he sent to the girl, but he denied allegations relating to serious contact offences with her.

During the trial the girl gave evidence down-playing Potts’ actions, back-tracking from what she initially told police when the relationship first came to light.

The court heard that, “at the heart of the case” were messages sent by Potts to the girl, referring to the sexual activity between the pair, stating: “Wasn’t it great?”

Potts believed they were instantly deleted, but the smitten girl screen-shot them, enabling police to discover them in their investigation.

In her closing speech, Jane Waugh, prosecuting, said Potts’ grooming tactics involved praising the girl, hoping it would lead to further sexual activity.

“The grooming was so successful that perhaps she still loves him. She said he was there when she needed a friend.

“She thought he was her boyfriend, but the Crown would say: ‘Look again at those messages.’

“Saying: ‘Wasn’t it great?’ It’s clearly not play acting, you might think.

“This was not a relationship, it was abuse.”

David Callan, defending, said Potts was “ashamed” of the messages, conceding they were “inappropriate”, but denied the factual basis of events apparently referred to in them.

Mr Callan described the messages as “banter”, “flattery” and “fantasy”, but said it did not mean the acts referred to actually took place.

Potts, of Beech Avenue, Spennymoor, admitted charges related to sexual communication with a child, sending her pornographic images and meeting her following sexual grooming, plus two counts of sexual activity with a child, relating to kissing and touching her bottom over clothing.

But he denied two further counts of sexual activity with a child, relating to more serious acts, and one of causing a child to engage in sexual activity.

After the jury’s unanimous guilty verdicts on the three denied counts, Judge Jonathan Carroll asked for a probation report to assess the danger of further similar offending offending by Potts.

Adjourning sentence for a month, he remanded Potts in custody, telling him: “You have been convicted of extremely serious sexual offences, engaging in a destructive relationship for your own sexual desires.

“A custodial sentence is absolutely inevitable. The only question is how long.”