A JUDGE branded a sex offender a ‘bully of the most cowardly kind’ before sparing him jail.

Thomas Pritchard appeared before Bolton Crown Court to be sentenced for two counts of sexual activity with a child and one count of assault by beating.

The offences took place between February 20 2015 and February 19 2016 when the girl was just 15-years-old.

The court heard how Pritchard, aged 24, had previously been cautioned over a sex offence involving a teenage girl. Pritchard, of Crompton Street, Farnworth, appeared by video link and wept as he was handed a suspended sentence.

Neil Fryman, prosecuting, told the court how Pritchard asked the victim how old she was and when she said she was 15-years-old he commented that she ‘looked older than that’. Mr Fryman said that at one point Pritchard bit the victim on her right arm, leaving a bruise. Pritchard was arrested for the offences in July last year.

Recorder Michael Hayton QC said: “You’re a big man in his early twenties who has been picking on young girls. You are a bully of young girls, you’re a bully of the most cowardly kind. What you need to remember is if you come back for this sort of offence again in the future, this will be on record and the starting sentence is five years, with a range of four to ten years.”

Pritchard had been in custody since his arrest and Andrew Fryman, mitigating, said that he had benefitted from this time in prison and the ‘time was right’ for him to go in to a new phase of his life.

Recorder Hayton sentenced Pritchard to 16 months in prison for the two counts of sexual activity with a child and two months in prison for assault by beating, both suspended for two years. Prichard was also placed on the sex offenders register and a restraining order was issued preventing him from contacting the victim for five years. A sexual harm prevention order was also issued preventing Pritchard coming into contact with girls under the age of 16, except for family members and ‘normal incidental’ contact for the next five years.