A BASINGSTOKE man with a “predilection for young girls” has been jailed for more than two years for having sex with a 13- year-old and for possessing thousands of indecent images.

Christopher Hayward, 28, had sex with the girl several times between July 30 and September 22, 2010, Winchester Crown Court was told.

He was found guilty of three counts of sexual activity with a child after a three-week trial in June and was back in court to be sentenced.

Prosecutor David Jenkins said Hayward, of Holyrood Court, Buckskin, was convicted after a jury was made aware of “compromising texts” and communication on social media between the two.

But Mr Jenkins said more than 5,000 indecent images of children aged between 13 and 18 were found when police seized Hayward’s computer from his then-address, in Falkland Road, Popley, when they arrested him on suspicion of sexual activity with a child.

He pleaded guilty in June 2011 to 14 counts of making and possessing indecent images of children on the basis that he did not intend to download all of the indecent images and did not accept all of the images were of children.

The vast majority – 5,013 – of the images were at the lowest category of seriousness – level one.

A further 48 were at level two, 43 at level three, 198 at level four and one image was classed as falling within the highest category of level five. Defending Hayward, Adrian Fleming said the 13-year-old was “a willing participant at the time” and “old beyond her years”.

He told Judge John Dixon: “She was, as she herself says, jointly responsible. She was as keen as he was to start a relationship.”

Sentencing Hayward, whose girlfriend and family attended court, Judge Dixon said: “You behaved in a shocking and predatory manner towards that little girl and you took from her, part of her youth and innocence.”

Telling Hayward he did not see him as a hardened sexual offender, he remarked: “You plainly had a predilection for young girls.”

He sentenced Hayward to a total of two years imprisonment for the counts of sexual activity with a child.

For the possession of indecent images of children, Hayward was sentenced to two months imprisonment, running consecutively.

He was told by Judge Dixon he would serve at least half the 26-month sentence.