A 'RECKLESS and irresponsible' man gave cigarettes and beer to two vulnerable teenage girls before driving one out of Cumbria.

Bradley Hodgson, 40, was approached by the pair in a South Cumbria village in spring last year as they were truanting from school. Both girls were 14, Carlisle Crown Court heard, and in local authority care.

They asked Hodgson for a cigarette. He agreed and invited them back to his then flat. “They chatted,” said prosecutor Jamie Baxter. “He allowed them to drink a couple of beers. They continued to smoke before leaving in the early evening.”

One of the girls returned to Hodgson’s home the following evening, uninvited, asking to be taken to a north west city to see a relative. He agreed to drive her the following morning and did so after after agreeing to let her sleep on his sofa.

He dropped the girl off but after police saw her acting suspiciously she was returned to Cumbria.

The next day, Hodgson was called and asked by one of the girls to give them a lift. The pair left their school and were pursued by staff who were “becoming increasingly concerned by the girls’ actions in previous days”.

Hodgson met them but was stopped by staff, and later interviewed by police.

“The thrust of what he said was in relation to knowing that they were in care, ultimately coming to the conclusion that what he was doing was wrong because he was taking them from their (school) and obviously without any legal authority,” said Mr Baxter.

“He stated that his only motivation for the interaction with them was to be friendly, driving them...because — in his words — he thought it would be a ‘nice thing to do’.”

Hodgson admitted abducting a child. The prosecution accepted his conduct had no sexual motivation, that it seemed to have “minimal effect” on the girl and, said Mr Baxter, in instances “was instigated by her”.

Tom Lord, defending, said of Hodgson — a man of previous good character and a long-serving fabricator: “Somebody perhaps of his age, with an employment record as impressive as his, ought to know better.” He had been experiencing bereavement difficulties at the time.

But Judge Nicholas Barker said of Hodgson’s decision to take the girl out of Cumbria: “That was an act of gross irresponsibility by you.

“There was, in my judgement, the potential for significant harm because you would simply have no control of what was going to happen to a young and vulnerable girl who not only had troubles and difficulties (but) was, at the very least, vulnerable to exploitation.”

Hodgson, of Sparrowmire Lane, Kendal, received a 12-month community order with 160 hours’ unpaid work.