A JUDGE yesterday freed a man who had sex with a girl of 12 - and said it was her fault they ended up in bed.
Child protection groups were furious after Michael Barrett, 20, was handed a two-year conditional discharge for the attack.
MP Dan Norris accused the judge of "playing into the hands of paedophiles". Barrett met the girl in an internet chatroom and later twice had sex with her at her parents' home when he was 18.
But judge Michael Roach said she was a "willing participant" who instigated sex at the house in Greater Manchester last year when she went to his bedroom.
He said trainee croupier Barrett was not "predatory to children" and told him: "There was no sexual coercion. Her family allowed you to stay in their home. I trust you to behave yourself now."
Former child protection officer Mr Norris said: "This is inexcusable and sends out the wrong message.
"There is no way anybody under 16 is able to make a genuine and informed decision about sex."
London child-abuse expert Professor Liz Kelly added: "The sentence is saying the age of consent does not matter."
Kidscape branded the decision "appalling". And the NSPCC said: "It is a very lenient sentence."
Barrett first met the girl at a 2002 concert in London after contacting her via the internet and phone. He was invited to stay with her family, who did not believe the relationship "inappropriate", the court heard.
After the case at Bristol crown court, Barrett said: "I have been lucky. I won't do that again."
He admitted having unlawful sex and has to sign the Sex Offenders' Register for two years.
A new law in May made sex with under-13s rape, carrying a possible life sentence. But it came into force after Barrett, of Bristol was held.
Judge Roach has come under fire before for leniency with sex offenders.
In 2003 he spared Bristol pervert Gary Templar jail after he assaulted a girl of eight.
And he gave a doctor just one year jail despite a 20 year reign of assaults against eight women.