A man "groomed" a girl and had a sexual relationship with her, leaving her with "persistent and longstanding" mental health problems.

Christopher White, from Radcliffe, began contacting his victim over the social media platform MySpace in 2006 when the girl was aged 13.

The two later began a relationship when she was 14 and he was 22.

Johnathan Savage, prosecuting, told Bolton Crown Court last week that White met with the girl in person in Radcliffe town centre where they drank alcohol and smoked cigarettes together, while her mother believed she was out with friends.

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After the relationship became sexual, White and the girl began staying at his mother’s house, as well as in hotel rooms in Manchester. They also bought a tent so they could spend time camping out, the court heard.

Mr Savage explained that White tried to prevent the girl from developing friendships outside the relationship by sending messages to those she knew “to put her distance between her and friends".

The relationship came to an end after her 16th birthday.

White was charged with having a sexual relationship with a girl under the age of 16 after being interviewed by police in 2020 after the victim came forward.

Mr Savage added: “She felt like she had been groomed into a relationship by him, that relationship had damaged her.”

A victim impact statement read to the court by the prosecution said the victim had suffered “persistent and longstanding” damage to her mental health.

In her statement, the victim, who is now an adult, wrote that she had “spent the last 10 years in the deepest depression".

However, Mr Savage added, she felt she had been able to rebuild her life.

Colin Buckle, defending, described White as being “childlike” and “presenting like a teenager” despite now being aged 39.

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"He was operating in a child like state", Mr Buckle said.

"To send him to custody now would be an unmitigated disaster for Christopher White."

Addressing White, of Redbank Road, Radcliffe, Judge Abigail Hudson said he was an “isolated and lonely man” whose employment was “a vital link between you and the outside world".

She added: “Your attraction to the victim was connected to her availability rather than her youth.

“I don’t accept that you were in any doubt of her age.”

Judge Hudson sentenced White to two years and eight months and ordered him to sign the sex offenders register.