A BRADFORD man who sent "sexual and flirtatious" messages to a teenage girl, and travelled to Suffolk to meet her four times, has been handed a suspended prison sentence.

Robert Binns, 52, of Bolton Road, Bradford, pleaded guilty to two counts of engaging in sexual communication with a child between September 2017 and May of this year.

He was handed an eight month sentence for each count, to be served concurrently, which are suspended for two years, when he appeared at Ipswich Crown Court on Friday, December 7.

Binns was the first person to be convicted of this relatively new offence in Suffolk, where the girl he groomed was from.

Suffolk Constabulary began its investigation into Binns after concerns were raised to teachers of the victim that she was having inappropriate online communications with an older man.

Suffolk's Cybercrime Team discovered Binns had been sending inappropriate and sexual messages to the victim using social media, and had also travelled to Suffolk, around 150 miles away from Bradford, to meet the girl on four occasions earlier this year.

Binns was arrested in May by West Yorkshire Police, on behalf of Suffolk Constabulary. Officers travelled to Bradford to interview him, where he admitted his offending.

Charlotte Driver, Cybercrime supervisor at Suffolk Constabulary, said: "Robert Binns, like many paedophiles, did not think there was anything inappropriate in his relationship with a teenage girl under 16.

"He believed he was her online protector and that through their messages and conversations he could help her as she approached the age of sexual responsibility.

"There is absolutely nothing appropriate about a man aged over 50 sending sexual and flirtatious messages to a young girl more than 30 years his junior, as well as buying presents for her.

"Binns knew the age of his victim as they had spoken via video messaging and despite this he still travelled down to Suffolk to meet her.

"This behaviour is classed as grooming and it often develops into more serious offences. It is fortunate in this case that we were notified and were able to identify Binns before the victim came to any more harm.”

He was also made the subject of a ten year sexual harm prevention order, an indefinite restraining order, and ten year notification requirements, and was also ordered to sign the Sex Offenders' Register for ten years.