A MANIPULATIVE male teenager “blackmailed” a 12-year-old girl to perform sex acts on herself and to engage in sexual relations with him, a court heard.

The girl felt pressured to send indecent images of herself to the 17-year-old male and to meet him for sexual liaisons after school.

Durham Crown Court heard the defendant even invented a female go-between ‘Holly’ who would message the girl urging her to engage in such activity or risk upsetting him.

Shaun Dodds, prosecuting, said the girl believed ‘Holly’ was a real person and a confidante, while she also considered the defendant was her boyfriend.

Mr Dodds said concern had already arisen about the defendant’s contact with underage girls and over indecent images found on his phone.

Despite being issued with a child abduction warning notice, he continued to communicate with underage girls.

His ‘relationship’ with the 12-year-old girl came to light after staff at her school became concerned at her associating with the older male, in March, and friends of the girl confirmed they were aware of some of the activity that had taken place between the pair.

The girl told police she met him via the Snapchat messaging site, on which he told her he was “best friends” with her.

She said she felt pressurised to take part in some of the activity by ‘Holly’ who she believed was a friend of the accused.

The defendant admitted two counts each of rape, sexual assault, causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and making indecent images of a child, the latter relating to two girls, plus a single count of causing a child to watch a sexual act.

Nicholas Askins in mitigation said the defendant’s actions over the past year were not in keeping with his previous behaviour, but he said work could be done with him to address his offending.

But Judge James Adkin said a probation report author raised concern over his risk of repeat sexual offending.

He told him: “This was a somewhat Machiavellian blackmail campaign to persuade a 12-year-old girl to have sex with you.

“She was, in my judgement, a very immature, gullible little girl, ill-prepared to fend off someone such as you.”

As Judge Adkin said he considers him a, “very dangerous young man”, he imposed a 64-month custodial sentence, with three years’ extended licence period and made the defendant subject of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order and registration as a sex offender, both for life. A lifetime restraining order prohibits him from contacting his victim.