Pervert tried to grope and kiss schoolgirl in South Shields

Paul Smith
Paul Smith

A pervert who groped and tried to kiss a schoolgirl as she played in the street has walked free from court.

Paul Smith repeatedly targeted the youngster when he saw her playing out with her pals in South Shields and sent her sexual messages over social media.

The 46-year-old, who called himself "Sexy Paul" online, asked the schoolgirl if she liked his "soft lips" and his "sexy blue eyes" and told her he loved her.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the victim was left "worried" about seeing Smith and feared what he might say.

Smith, formerly from South Shields and now of Thursden Way, Kenton, Newcastle, denied wrongdoing when questioned by the police and claimed it was "just banter".

He told police: "I hate blokes who do that type of thing".

Smith later pleaded guilty to one charge of engaging in sexual communication with a child and three offences of sexual assault.

Judge Sarah Mallett sentenced Smith to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, with a four month curfew and rehabilitation requirements.

Smith must abide by a lifelong restraining order to keep him away from the girl and a ten year sexual harm prevention order.

He will be on the sex offenders register for ten years.

The judge told him: "I am sure you realise how deeply inappropriate it was, both in behaviour and what you were saying to that girl.

"It was inappropriate because it was sexual. You will have to get your head around the fact it was sexual, you still deny any sexual motivation."

The judge said the jail term could be suspended because Smith has a "realistic prospect of rehabilitation" and "strong personal mitigation".

Sue Hirst, defending, said Smith had gone through the break-up of a relationship at the time and was at a "low ebb" in his life.

Miss Hirst added that Smith had "enjoyed the attention" and added: "He denies there was any sexual motivation to his behaviour.

"Clearly there may need to be work done in that regard."

Miss Hirst said Smith's life is now on a "more even keel" and he has found work as a factory supervisor.

She added: "He is genuinely remorseful for any upset caused."