A PAEDOPHILE who abused a 13-year-old girl has escaped being jailed after the victim’s family and the police pleaded for leniency.

Dane Walker was 27 when he began communicating with the schoolgirl through Facebook and text messages.

The pair, who exchanged naked photos of each other, met late last year and engaged in sexual activity.

Walker, of Nethercot Road, Tackley, was sentenced at Oxford Crown Court on Friday after admitting two counts of sexual activity with a child. The victim did not wish to co-operate with the prosecution and defence barrister Lucy Tapper said both the investigating police officer and the girl’s parents wanted the matter to be dealt with by way of a caution.

She said police officer Natalie Thompson even appealed against the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision to charge Walker.

Judge Gordon Risius admitted sentencing guidelines suggest the starting point for Walker’s sentence should be two years and eight months in jail, but said he would take a “wholly exceptional course”.

Walker was given three years’ supervision and told to complete a sex offender group programme during that time.

Judge Risius said: “I do not wish anyone to think serious offences such as these are ever treated lightly by the courts or the courts are unduly influenced by the attitude of complainants and their families, but the fair course in the long term is to follow the recommendation of the pre-sentence report and impose a community order which will last for three years.”

He had earlier told Walker: “The reason why the law forbids sexual activity between adults and children is that no matter how mature physically and psychologically some children may appear, they are simply not ready for sexual activity with other people, particularly with much older people.”

The case came to police attention in March after the girl told a school counsellor about the incidents.

Referring to the victim’s family, Miss Tapper said: “There’s never been any suggestion that Mr Walker has behaved in a monstrous way towards their daughter.

“They have been very supporting and recognise the disastrous effect it has had on him and his parents.”

She said her client was “very low emotionally” at the time of the offending due to the death of a close friend.

Walker has been placed on the sex offender register.

Judge Risius said he could not impose the sex offender group programme in conjunction with a suspended prison sentence, due to its three-year duration, but stressed this did not mean it was a lesser sanction.

CPS spokesman Louise Rosher said: “Where consulted, the CPS will only advise that someone is offered a caution when it is considered to be a proportionate response to the seriousness and consequences of the offence.”