A pervert who groomed a 14-year-old transgender boy before travelling to West Yorkshire to have sex with him has been jailed for six years.
Leeds Crown Court heard Robert Flanagan travelled from his home in Bristol to met the victim after contacting him online.
The victim was described in court as “extremely vulnerable” and was suffering from depression at the time.
Father-of-one Flanagan exchanged text messages and e-mails with the youngster for several weeks before they exchanged explicit pictures of each other.
Tom Storey, prosecuting, said Flanagan was fully aware of the boy’s age when they arranged to meet.
Flanagan told him: “We will have to be careful. If this gets out I will lose my job, my life - everything.”
Flanagan drove his van to West Yorkshire in November last year and met him near his home.
They drove to a rural area where they had sex in the back of his van.
After the offences came to light the youngster told police that sex had been consensual but he felt bad about what had happened.
Mr Storey said: “He described himself as feeling really bad and that he should not have done it and that he felt it was degrading.”
Flanagan was arrested at his home in December and admitted to officers what he had done.
He told officers that he had a “preference for pre-op transgender males.”
Flanagan, of Ashton Drive, Bristol, pleaded guilty to meeting a child following sexual grooming and two offences of sexual activity with a child.
The court heard he has previous convictions for football-related public disorder and has been made the subject of a football banning order in the past.
Flanagan sobbed and sat with his head in his hands throughout most of the hearing.
Matthew Harding, mitigating, said Flanagan was ashamed of what he had done and accepted that he faced a lengthy prison sentence.
He added: “He makes it clear that this offending was his fault and nobody else’s.”
Jailing Flanagan, judge Sally Cahill, QC, said: “Your victim was a young boy of 14 years of age. It is abundantly clear to me, as it must have been abundantly clear to you, that he is a vulnerable young man.
“You knew exactly what risks you were taking.”
After the case, Det Con Lindsey Brants of West Yorkshire Police, said: “We hope the sentencing of Flanagan today will send a strong message to those who think it is acceptable to travel into West Yorkshire to commit crime. Just because you are not from this area, it doesn’t mean that West Yorkshire Police will not make every effort to locate and pursue you.
“In this case, Flanagan was fully aware of his victim’s age and vulnerability and came to West Yorkshire with the sole aim of committing very serious sexual offences.
“I wish to commend the victim’s courage in coming forward and helping expose Flanagan’s offending.”