A Hampshire man who was branded a "risk to young girls" used an online messaging app to engage in sexual conversations with young girls all over the world. 

Southampton Crown Court heard how Stephen Grant would use the app Kik to groom underage girls across the UK, as well as in countries such as Australia and the United States.

He met the girls in a group chat which contained rules for the young girls to follow, with sexual punishments if they broke them.

Grant would then move the conversation into private chats, using different messaging platforms to communicate with his victims online.

This is not the first time the 44-year-old has been in trouble - having been jailed 18 years ago, when he was 26, for detaining a child without lawful authority and possessing indecent images.

This related to a then-15-year-old girl who he was sleeping with in his vehicle. 

Southampton Crown Court heard last week that with one girl from the Isle of Wight, Grant would call her "princess" and "baby", requesting that she send sexual images of herself and even asking her to come to the mainland to meet him. 

This victim was 15 at the time and told police that she got involved in the chat because she had "low self-esteem" and he would "tell her she was pretty and encourage her to send more".

At points, he also told her he loved her and would become angry if she spoke to other men. 

Grant, 44, treated another one of his victims as his partner, asking her to send photos and speaking for long periods with her. 

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During one conversation, the girl, who came from Australia, said she was in a mental health facility, at which point he tried to convince her to tell the doctors that she would be better off at home.

Grant was arrested after police received a referral about the distribution of indecent images of children on Kik. 

They attended his home and seized a number of devices where they found a number of indecent images that had been both saved and deleted. 

Following his arrest for the new matters, Grant, of Mercer Way, Romsey, pleaded guilty to four counts of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, six counts of making indecent images of children and two counts of sexual communication with a child. 

Prosecuting, Keely Harvey said there were hundreds of indecent images of children found, adding that police had to go through and analyse 7,000 pages of messages between him and one of his victims. 

She added that even after being arrested and bailed, he continued to chat with one of his victims. 

The offences took place in 2018 and 2019.

Daily Echo: Southampton Crown CourtSouthampton Crown Court (Image: NQ)

Mitigating, Emily Lanham told the court that her client was "foolish in his actions because these girls made him feel attractive when no one his own age would".

"It has been four and a half years since the offending," she continued. "Not only has that shown that Mr Grant is capable of preventing further offending himself but it has given him time to reflect on his behaviour.

"He is very sorry. It is clear that he has been taking steps to address his behaviour and prevent any further offences."

But Judge Nicholas Rowland found that Grant is a "risk to young girls". 

He was jailed for five years and nine months with an extended licence period of four years. 

He was also given a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for 15 years. 

A deprivation order was made for the seized devices.