Man who groomed schoolgirls who he met on internet is to be assessed by psychiatrists

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A man who sexually groomed schoolgirls who he met on the internet is to be assessed by psychiatrists in a secure hospital.

A judge ordered Neil Stewart, 20, from Mill Lane, Billingham, should be transferred from prison, where he is being held on charges involving six girls, to Roseberry Park Hospital, Middlesbrough, for the next 11 weeks.

The interim hospital order was made after Stewart pleaded guilty to 15 sexual offences.

The girls, whose identities are protected by law, were aged 12, 13, 14 and 15 when he contacted them on sites such as Facebook.

He admitted engaging in sexual activity with two of them.

Indecent images of 12 and 14 year-old girls were found on his phone and computer.

He asked a 14-year-old girl for photos of her breasts, and he invited the 15-year-old to his house but she refused.

Prosecutor Paul Cleasby said Stewart had pleaded guilty to 15 of the 17 charges he faced, and the Crown offered no evidence on those, asking for not guilty verdicts to be entered.

Mr Cleasby said one of the girls was prepared to read her personal statement out in court at a future hearing.

Duncan McReddie, defending, said that Stewart fell within the boundaries of autism, and he made an application for him to be assessed by psychiatrists under the Mental Health Act.

Stewart has pleaded guilty to four charges of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, three of sexual activity with a child, three of making indecent photographs of children, two of causing or making a child under 13 engage in sexual activity, and single charges of sexual assault of a child under 13, meeting a child following sexual grooming, and causing or inciting a child to watch a sexual act.

The case was adjourned until December 10.