Sex fiend groomed schoolgirl

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A dangerous paedophile who groomed and sexually exploited his 13-year-old victim has been jailed.

Stephen Holden, 33, of Mallard Close, Leyland, was handed a nine-year sentence after being found guilty of five counts of sexual activity with a child.

He was convicted in December 2010 and was sentenced when he appeared at Burnley Crown Court last Friday.

Detectives investigating the case say Holden took advantage of his victim, who was vulnerable because she was suffering from personal problems at the time.

He was also disqualified from working with children and ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register indefinitely.

Holden’s conviction was part of Operation Cherish.

The operation is being co-ordinated by Lancashire Constabulary’s southern policing division’s department for dealing with child sex exploitation.

Investigating officer Det Con Ed Clayton, of Lancashire Police, said after sentencing: “Holden built up a relationship with the girl over a period of four months.

“She was having some problems on the emotional side and he helped her out.

“We believe that was all part of the grooming process.

“She had an emotional reliance on him because of the problems she was going through and he used that to groom and sexually exploit her.”

Unemployed Holden was eventually caught after a friend of the girl alerted police to what was going on.

Det Con Clayton said: “We certainly saw him as a dangerous individual to groom and then have sex with a child and we worked hard to secure a conviction.

“The courts obviously took the same view that he was dangerous when they jailed him for nine years.

“This conviction goes some way to protecting members of the public.”

The offences took place between September and December 2009.

DC Clayton said: “We are a dedicated unit with a sergeant and three detective constables. We have had a number of successes since we were set up in June 2009 and protecting vulnerable children is our main priority.”