A MAN who groomed three young schoolgirls before sexually abusing them has been given a two and-a-half year jail sentence.
Anthony John Smith gave his victims money and cigarettes, fed them sausage and chips and assaulted one young girl in his car in the presence of her friend.
The 67-year-old, of Badminton Close, Darlington, would touch them in intimate areas over their clothing.
His case was previously adjourned at Teesside Crown Court after a judge said he wanted to hear more about the impact on his victims.
Smith’s offending, said to be over an eight month period, occurred while his wife was ill and effectively bedridden. She has since died.
Prosecutor Shaun Dodds said the pensioner referred to the young girls as “sexy”. One described how he would touch her “fairy” and “boobs”.
Mr Dodds said Smith suggested to one girl she perform a sex act on him, but she was too young to know what he meant. The defendant later said he had been mucking about.
In a statement read to the court, one of his three victims said she was sickened and disgusted by his actions feared Smith would come after her once released from jail.
She said: “He is a creepy man, evil and very frightening.”
Smith had a previous conviction dating back to 1998 for an indecent assault on a young girl for which he received a suspended jail sentence.
He admitted six counts of sexual assault, although these were said to be specimen counts.
Smith told police he was a “touchy feely” person.
Peter Kilgour, mitigating, said: “The touching was on top of clothing. He has entered guilty pleas and has done so unconditionally.”
Jailing Smith for two-and-a-half years, Judge Howard Crowson told him he had taken advantage of his victims.
“There was a period of grooming with you encouraging this sort of behaviour and slowly pushing your luck further day by day.”
Smith was also given an indefinite sexual offences prevention order and will register as a sex offender for life.