Two men who had sexual intercourse with under-aged schoolgirls have been jailed.

Michael Rathbone, 24, of Mayfield Drive in Buckley, was 22 when he had sex with a girl aged 14.

He would hang around the school gate and continued to meet up with her – even after the police had warned him not to do so, Mold Crown Court was told.

He was jailed for three-and-a-half years after being convicted of two charges of penetrative sexual activity with a child.

Co-defendant Scott Buxton, of Wynnstay Avenue in Wrexham, now 24 but 21 at the time, received a two-and-a-half year sentence for two similar offences involving another girl aged 14, a friend of the other girl.

Both were ordered to register with the police as sex offenders for life.

An indefinite sexual harm prevention order was made in each case and they are not to have any unsupervised contact with children.

Both had denied the offences but were convicted at an earlier trial.

Judge Rhys Rowlands said in both cases the defendants took advantage of girls several years younger than themselves and indulged in full intercourse with them during the summer of 2015.

They had not shown any remorse and as a result could not have any reduction in sentences. They did not show any victim empathy.

Judge Rowlands said pre-sentence reports showed Rathbone took the view that he had done nothing wrong or illegal, while Buxton continued to maintain his innocence.

At 21 and 22 they chose to indulge in serious penetrative acts with two schoolgirls.

“Such behaviour is illegal. Everyone is aware of that including the two of you,” the judge said.

The law was designed to protect children, said the judge. “Both girls were just that, still children in any normal person’s eyes,” he said.

But the two of them were intent on having sex with the girls.

Judge Rowlands said Rathbone had taken advantage of a girl of 14 when he was eight years older that her.

In his case there had plainly been grooming.

He picked her up from outside the school, gave her gifts and was said to have treated her “like a princess”.

Regular sexually penetrative acts took place and he told her to lie to others about her age. And he threatened to harm himself if she ended it.

After the police first became involved in September 2015, Rathbone was determined to continue to see the young girl.

Judge Rowlands told Buxton he had taken advantage of another young girl aged 14.

She had been told by Rathbone to lie about her age to Buxton initially, but he quickly became aware of her age, the judge said.

That girl was particularly vulnerable but Buxton had sex with her despite a seven-and-a-half year age gap and it had a profound effect upon her.

Buxton had serious problems within the family in the past and he was not in the best of health after a car accident four years ago, the judge said.

He had the good sense to stop when police went to his house and issued him with a warning.

Rathbone, the judge said, had introduced the girls to Buxton and had told them to lie to him about their ages.

Barrister Simon Mintz, prosecuting, said it was clear grooming had taken place, although to a lesser extent by Buxton.

One girl had said in a victim impact statement how after significant work and intervention she felt “like a completely different person” and was reconciled with her family.

Barrister Andrew Green, for Rathbone, said his client was caring and hard-working and references showed the other side to his character.

He was shocked and distressed by the convictions and he said the impact of his first term of custody on him would be very significant indeed.

Mr Green suggested his client was immature although the judge said he did not view him as immature but someone quite determined to view himself as being in the right.

Barrister Matthew Curtis, for Buxton, said he and his family had a lot to deal with and he had an unhappy personal back

Sgt Steve Lloyd from Flintshire North Safer Neighbourhood Team said after the sentencing hearing: “I would like to thank the victims for their bravery and co-operation during in this very sensitive investigation.

“I would also like to commend the investigation team for their commitment and professionalism.

“These offenders have deservedly been given prison sentences for their crimes. Child sexual exploitation is an extremely serious offence and North Wales Police would always encourage victims to come forward.”

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