A HARTLEPOOL man who had sex with a 14-year-old girl in a tent after grooming her online with his Xbox has failed in a bid to overturn his conviction.
Sean Anthony Clode, 23, was found with the schoolgirl on a remote stretch of beach after police had launched an emergency search following her disappearance.
Clode was caged for six years at Teesside Crown Court in October, 2013.
He was convicted of abducting a child, two counts of sexual activity with a child and one of meeting a child following sexual grooming.
Three senior judges at London’s Appeal Court rejected a challenge by Clode against his convictions, saying there was “no sound basis” for doubting the jury’s verdicts.
Lord Justice Pitchford said Clode met his young victim while they were playing interactive games on their consoles online.
After further contact, the girl travelled to Hartlepool with a tent she had bought from Argos and was met by Clode, who had bedding in a bin bag, at the railway station.
They took a taxi to an area close to Crimdon Dene and pitched the tent, before settling down for the night.
It was here that Clode had sex with the youngster, the appeal judge said.
When the girl’s parents discovered that she was not, as they believed, at a friend’s house, they sparked an emergency search and directed police to Hartlepool, having received a telephone call from the area.
Clode and his victim were found after a police helicopter spotted their tent from the air.
He was arrested, with the girl explaining to officers that sexual activity had taken place.
However, she later changed her account, insisting that Clode had in fact fallen asleep without any sexual contact taking place.
Clode said she had turned up unexpectedly and that he had simply escorted her to the beach to protect her
Despite Clode’s claimed innocence, and his victim turning “hostile witness” from the prosecution’s point of view, the jury heard that used condoms were discovered outside the tent and found him guilty.
Applying to appeal, Clode’s barrister, Rebecca Brown, argued that there was a “lingering doubt” surrounding the convictions and asserted that the jury’s verdict was “incomprehensible”, given the victim’s changing story.
But Lord Justice Pitchford, sitting with Mr Justice Irwin and Mr Justice Spencer, said: “We can see no sound basis for concluding that the verdicts were unsafe. For that reason, this application must be dismissed.”