A 45-year-old man has avoided a jail sentence after being convicted of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl.

John Hilton assaulted the girl at her home in Bury on October 14, 2011.

Bolton Crown Court heard Hilton, of Ribble Drive, Bury, had been staying over at the home and was sleeping in the lounge.

Adam Lodge, prosecuting, said the defendant asked the girl to keep him company when she went to get a glass of water. She sat next to the defendant on the sofa and he started to behave inappropriately by rubbing her feet and then her thighs, before touching the girl on the chest.

She ran away to her bedroom to escape him and hid under the covers and cried.

The crime came to light when the girl told her mother what happened nearly two months later when she thought Hilton might be staying over at the home again.

The court heard on Monday how the girl had been terrified of seeing Hilton and had received counselling from the NSPCC.

Hilton denied the offence until the day of trial when he admitted sexually assaulting the girl.

Judge Maureen Roddy said: “She was young and vulnerable girl. You knew her age and her vulnerabilities.”

He was sentenced to a three-year community order, which will involve completing a sex offenders’ course. A restraining order bans him from going near the victim, he was disqualified from working with children and ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register for five years.