A health worker who "groomed" a girl with mental health issues and asked her to send him sexy pictures of herself has been given a 16-month suspended prison sentence.

Defence solicitor advocate Peter Minnikin said Ross Lee Haddington was only checking to see if the underage York teenager was getting the help she needed when he contacted her after she visited Harrogate District Hospital where he was working.

Anthony Dunne, prosecuting, said Haddington asked her to send him pictures of her naked breasts and when she demurred, sent her an indecent picture of a man and said now it was her turn.

Eventually he gave up trying to persuade her to send pictures, after she refused to answer his telephone call.

He had been drinking. The next day he apologised and asked her to delete the picture he had sent her, but she went to the police.

Haddington then claimed he couldn't remember sending the indecent picture.

The Honorary Recorder of York, Judge Paul Batty QC, said the messages before the requests for pictures were "grooming" and that Haddington knew of the girl's vulnerability.

"I accept you were appalled by what you had done.," he said "But anyone who is involved in this type of activity can generally expect a custodial sentence."

Haddington, 26, of Greenfields Avenue, Harrogate, pleaded guilty to inciting a child to engage in sexual activity. He was given a 16-month prison sentence at York Crown Court, suspended for two years on condition he does an 80-day sex offender treatment programme and 150 hours' unpaid work.

He must also sign on the sex offenders' register for ten years and was put on a sexual harm prevention order restricting his use of the internet and contact with underage girls for ten years.

Mr Minnikin said Haddington already had the girl's contact details, as he knew her before she went to the hospital. He had behaved out of character.