A young man who drove 120 miles from his home in south London for a sexual encounter with a 13-year-old Coventry girl has been jailed and ordered to register as a sex offender.
Jake Oatham had originally denied two charges of sexual activity with a child – and earlier this year a jury at Warwick Crown Court was unable to reach verdicts.
But before he was due to stand trial for a second time, he pleaded guilty to an amended indictment of three charges of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, one of meeting a child following grooming, and one of sexual activity with a child.
Oatham (22) of Seymour Avenue, Morden, south London, was jailed for three-and-a-half years and ordered to register as a sex offender for life.
Prosecutor Matthew Barnes had told the court that Oatham first made contact with the girl through a website designed for teenagers, and they exchanged ‘a very high volume’ of messages within a short space of time.
They progressed to discussions on Skype, which included Oatham inciting her to meet him and to engage in intercourse and oral sex.
Then after just a few days he drove from his home to Coventry, a distance of around 120 miles, having arranged to meet the girl, who had told him she was 14, near her home.
He drove them to a car park where he produced a cannabis joint which, although she was reluctant to try at first, they then shared.
Oatham asked her to get into the back of the car, telling her she was pretty, and once they were there, they began kissing and he put his hand inside her jeans and touched her intimately.
It had been alleged they had intercourse, but that charge was dropped after the jury failed to reach a verdict following the trial earlier this year.
On his way back to London after dropping the girl off, Oatham was taken ill and pulled into a service area suffering from palpitations, as a result of which he was taken to hospital.
It turned out he was not seriously ill, but his family and girlfriend had been unable to contact him, and somehow his girlfriend got the girl’s number and called her.
Oatham’s girlfriend was not happy about what the 13-year-old told her, and later in the year began sending her unpleasant messages – which was the trigger for the girl telling a teacher what had happened, and the police being contacted.
Following his arrest Oatham claimed he believed the girl was 18, and that the lighting during their Skype chats had not been good enough for him to realise how young she was.
But even after they had met Oatham, who claimed it was the girl who provided the cannabis, had continued to contact her, inciting her to meet again and to take part in sexual acts.
Claire Robinson, defending, said Oatham, who suffers from Asperger’s and ADHD, only knew she was, as she told him, 14 part-way through their communications.
Miss Robinson said Oatham knew the type of sentence he was facing, and had handed in his notice with a vehicle recovery company, for which he worked as a patrolman.
“He knew he faced a custodial sentence, and he didn’t feel in the right frame of mind to concentrate properly on his employment, which involves mending people’s cars and therefore being responsible for their safety,” she added.
Jailing Oatham, Judge Anthony Potter told him: “It is clear you were aware she was under 16.
“I am quite satisfied her insecurities would have been perfectly obvious to you. You, notwithstanding your own issues, deliberately exploited her.
“Within the first 15 minutes of the first proper text conversation you were suggesting coming to meet her, despite the fact you live in Surrey, about a two-hour drive from Coventry.
“You made it perfectly plain you wanted to engage in sexual activity with her in a number of graphic texts.
“You were committed to driving up to Coventry to meet a 13-year-old girl, who I accept you believed was 14, and you were intent on engaging in sexual activity. You wanted anything and everything she would allow you to get away with.”