A MAN who had sex with a child under 16 after he groomed her on a social media website has been sentenced to seven and a half years in prison.

Gareth Rees, 37, of Samsons Avenue, Pontypool, had sex with the girl twice, and peppered her account with sexually suggestive messages.

Last year, he took the girl to a car park, where he had sex with her.

Cardiff Crown Court heard he sent her messages including “How are you, you little minx?”, and “Live dangerously and have an affair with a married man”.

When she messaged she had recently attended a sex education class at school, he responded “I can show you proper sexed”.

When the girl asked about Rees’ wife, he said he would be having an affair anyway.

Jailing him yesterday, Judge David Wynn Morgan said the tariff was reflective of “the seriousness of these offences and the depths of the depravity to which you have sunk”.

He said: “This was a case of serious harm. It was a significant abuse of trust.”

Tony Trigg, prosecuting, read a statement made by the girl’s mother because the girl was too upset to submit one.

The girl’s mother said: “I knew something bad had happened, but it took ages to get it out of her.

“Her mental health got worse and worse and she told me she wanted to kill herself.”

The court heard that the girl has missed long spells of school, is being prescribed anti-depressants and regularly attends a hospital for treatment.

Rees was arrested on December 18 last year and had “fairly quickly admitted” the offences, Mr Trigg said, although he said a probation officer who had interviewed Rees felt he was trying to downplay the seriousness of the offences.

In mitigation, Andrew Taylor said Rees had no previous convictions and was “quite devastated” by his actions. He had not “trawled” through social media to meet the girl as some other sex offenders would have done, he added.

Rees was given two years in custody for grooming the girl and four and five and a half years respectively for the sexual offences. The latter two will run concurrently totalling seven and a half years. He was placed on the sex offenders’ register.