A FORMER nursery worker has been told he can continue his rehabilitation as a free man after being convicted of having sex with a third under-age girl.

Michael Thornton, originally from Urmston, slept with 13 and 14-year-olds in late 2009 and early 2010 after posing as a trainee fireman.

He was given a three-year community order then by a judge at Manchester Crown Court for four offences of sexual activity with a child.

But years later a third victim, also aged 13, came forward, whom he had seduced via Facebook around the same time, Minshull Street Crown Court was told, leading to two similar charges.

Justin Hayhoe, prosecuting said Thornton told her at the time he was 16.

But after sex education classes in later life, the girl had looked into the matter again and found out Thornton would have been older and the police were called in.

Judge Mark Savill imposed a six-month prison term, suspended for 18 months, because of the "exceptional circumstances" and progress made by Thornton on his last community order.

Mr Hayhoe told the court that Thornton, who now lives in Wakefield, had sex with the under-age girl at two separate locations. Later the pair drifted apart.

The judge said he had taken into consideration what the effect on the defendant's original sentence would have been if he had been prosecuted for all three sets of offences back in 2010.

Nicola Gatto, defending, said her client had engaged with a sex offender management programme as part of his previous sentence and the risk of him reoffending was considered to have reduced.

The defendant was a father-of-three, who worked full-time and he had rebuilt his life after his last court appearance, she told the court.