A MAN has been jailed for having sex with a 13-year-old girl he groomed on Facebook, as new figures revealed that more than 40 people were charged with having under-age sex with children in Lothian and Borders last year.
Three people were charged with having sexual intercourse with under 13s in the force area, while 38 were arrested for the same offence involving under 16s.
Five charges were also brought between last April and March in connection with grooming children for sex.
It comes as 25-year-old Sean Ness was given an extended sentence of 34 months and ordered to register as a sex offender for ten years at Edinburgh Sheriff Court yesterday after admitting unlawful sexual intercourse with the girl.
Ness, of Inchview, Prestonpans, had told the girl he loved her in online messages before meeting up for sex when he was aware she was just 13.
Meanwhile, the sexual offences figures, released by police, showed two people were charged with raping boys aged under 13 during the year.
Charges were also brought over the alleged rape of two boys aged 13 to 15, and seven girls of the same age.
Sexual assaults against children aged 13 and under, four girls and two boys, also saw six charges made by police.
Matt Forde, head of children’s charity NSPCC Scotland, said: “Sex offenders often prowl the internet looking for victims they can lure into potentially dangerous situations.
“Children should not reveal their identities or personal information to any strangers they encounter online and must never meet them unless they are going with an adult or someone else they trust.”
Ness was jailed for ten months and will remain on licence for a further 24 months after his release. He pleaded guilty previously at Edinburgh Sheriff Court to having unlawful sexual intercourse with the girl on an occasion between September 1 and October 11 last year at an East Lothian address when he was 24.
Fiscal Depute Ann MacNeill had told the court that Ness asked the girl to be his friend on the site and she accepted, although she did not know who he was. The fiscal said the girl’s profile showed she was 13.
Ms MacNeill added: “They began to chat online and he would ask if she was single and he said he loved her and told her she was special and he had never been in love before.” She said the pair eventually met and had consensual sex.
Ness’ defence solicitor, Mark Harrower, said: “The accused on the other hand was a vulnerable adult suffering from low esteem. The level of maturity between the two parties was closer together than their ages”.
Sentencing Ness, Sheriff Roderick MacLeod said: “I know it was entirely willing and consensual as far as the girl was concerned. Nevertheless, you were the older person, and should have told her to go back to her family.”
A police spokesman said: “The force is fully committed to protecting vulnerable members of the public.”