A 24-YEAR-OLD Worcester man who sent a 14-year-old girl a photo of his genitals has been warned by a judge he faces a possible jail sentence.

Luke Price admitted one count of causing or inciting a child to engage in non-penetrative sexual activity when he appeared at Worcester Crown Court.

The 24-year-old of Canterbury Road, Ronkswood, Worcester, committed the offence between February 14 and March 6 last year.

The court heard that Price was initially arrested on suspicion of meeting a child with the intention of sexual activity, having met her on two occasions.

When asked by the judge if there had been any physical contact between the two, Caroline Harris, prosecuting, said: “There’s no suggestion of kissing or anything of that nature from the complainant.”

Miss Harris said the defendant sent a single image of his penis after ‘quasi-romantic messages’ were sent. The complainant’s father had attempted to intervene.

“That doesn’t dissuade the defendant from contact nor the complainant,” she said.

She argued that aggravating features were the disparity in age (the defendant was 22 and the complainant 14 at the time of the offence) and grooming behaviour.

The offence was categorised as level 3A within the sentencing guidelines which has a starting point of 26 weeks in custody and a range available to the sentencing judge of a high level community order to up to three years in custody.

Richard Hull, defending Price, said: “I would accept there’s a disparity in age that isn’t insignificant.”

Mr Hull said his client was now in an age appropriate relationship with a 29-year-old woman with no children, that he was in full-time employment and of previous good character, arguing that the many positives in his life suggested ‘this was an aberration by him’.

Judge Nicholas Cole asked if the complainant’s vulnerability, reflected by her need for an intermediary, would be treated by the prosecution as an aggravating feature.

However, Miss Harris said she would like more information about that before making that assertion and it was her intention to seek further instructions with regard to the victim personal statement and a restraining order.

The case was adjourned until October 23 for a pre-sentence report to be prepared by the probation service.

Judge Cole said the guidelines did note that, where there’s sufficient prospect of rehabilitation, a community order with a sexual offending treatment programme could be imposed as an alternative to a custodial sentence.

However, he said that plainly the pre-sentence report prepared by the probation service should contain all options, including that of an immediate custodial sentence.

The judge granted Price bail on one condition - that he co-operate with the probation service in the preparation of a report, telling him it was also in his interests to do so.

“I make it plain that all options, including immediate custody, do remain open but the court will be assisted by a report to look at what alternatives there may be.”

Price appeared at Worcester Crown Court on Thursday, October 3. He is next due in court on Wednesday, October 23.

For updates on this case, see worcesternews.co.uk