A MAN who groomed and exploited a schoolgirl for his own sexual gratification has been jailed for six years and seven months.

York Crown Court was told that joiner Michael Dale’s actions had had a major impact on his victim’s life.

She said in a statement read out in court that she had been left lacking in confidence and self-esteem, and seeking help to cope, and her relationship with her parents had broken down.

She said that coming to court had been the ‘scariest thing’ she had ever done, and waiting for 18 months for the case to come to trial had left her feeling anxious.

Dale, 30, of Dorts Crescent, Church Fenton, who admitted three offences of sexual activity with a child and one of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, was said by his barrister, Julian Goode, to be ‘deeply ashamed and disgusted by his behaviour.’

He said Dale was of previous good character and had shown genuine remorse, and people had spoken highly of him in character references handed to the court.

Mike Greenhalgh, prosecuting, said Dale had met the girl in a pub in the York area in her early teens and he was in his early 20s.

Judge Simon Hickey, jailing Dale, said there were aggravating features including clear grooming of the victim.

Investigating Officer, Detective Constable Peter Smith, of York Serious Crime Team, said afterwards that the case had involved the exploitation of an innocent girl by an older man, who had taken advantage of her age and immaturity for his own sexual gratification.

“The investigation started several years ago and initially the victim was not forthcoming because she had been groomed by Dale,” he said.

“However now that she is older she has realised that what happened was wrong.

“Dale behaved in a predatory way against a vulnerable child.

“Although he initially pleaded guilty to some offences, he continued to deny others, only admitting to them on the morning of his trial.

“The victim is now left trying to piece her life back together after realising that her childhood was taken away from her by his actions.

“I hope today’s significant sentence goes some way in helping her to move on, and encourages other victims of grooming to come forward to the police and report their abusers.”