THE quick-thinking actions of a teenage girl shortly after being the victim in a case of exposure helped police to catch the perpetrator.

Durham Crown Court was told the girl was walking on Potters Bank in the city at 3pm on April 9, last year, when the incident took place.

Paul Abrahams, prosecuting, said her attention was drawn to loud music coming from a parked van.

She glanced at the van and saw a man clearly exposing himself, performing a sex act.

Mr Abrahams said: “You may take the view the music was deliberately switched up loud to gain her attention.”

The girl shouted and walked further on before taking a photograph of the vehicle, which was then driven away.

Police traced the van and arrested owner John Hardy, of Holly Street, Jarrow, on suspicion of exposure.

He denied it, but confirmed he was parked at the time and made no further comment to police questions.

Hardy denied a charge of indecent exposure, causing alarm or distress.

But after a pre-trial hearing earlier this year, in which the victim’s recorded evidence was played, Hardy changed his plea to guilty.

A victim statement read to the court stated that the girl did not choose to say much about the incident to family members and friends, but has been wary when out walking in public and is now less trustful of men.

The court heard that although the defendant has no previous convictions, he was cautioned in 2016 for committing an indecent act in public.

Gavin Doig, mitigating, said at least the defendant has now, “done the decent thing and seen sense.”

Mr Doig said it has been “profoundly embarrassing” for the defendant, who has not, now, tried to minimise his actions.

Judge James Adkin said he considered it deliberate targeting of a victim vulnerable by her age.

Imposing a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, he ordered Hardy to undergo a 30-day sex offender programme, with 30 further probation-run rehabilitation days, and said he must perform 250-hours’ unpaid work and pay £750 costs.

Hardy was made subject to a sexual harm prevention order and sex offender registration, both for ten years.

The judge awarded £200 from public funds for the girl’s presence of mind in taking the photo leading to the van being traced.