A man with a low IQ who sexually assaulted a girl under 16 in a flat in St Albans was given a suspended jail sentence.

Paul Lusty, 46, who knew the girl, collected her from school and took her to the flat of a friend, who had a conviction for a child sex offence.

Lusty knew about the man's 40-year-old offence and had previously talked to him about the girl's figure and her breasts, St Albans crown court was told yesterday.

Prosecutor Andrew Howarth said they were laughing and joking in the flat before the girl said she had to leave at 5pm for a club.

At the door, Lusty grabbed her tights and pulled them down to her knees. He then took hold of her top, put his finger inside her bra and exposed her breasts saying: "Look."

They left and the girl said nothing to her mother, but the friend was 'troubled' by what had happened. "He slept on it and telephoned the police the next day," said Mr Howarth.

The girl was interviewed and said she thought Lusty had been "clowning around."

Lusty, now of West Avenue, Chelmsford, was arrested. In police interviews he denied anything had happened but, on the day his trial was due to start, he pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the girl on 18 May last year. He had previous convictions for GBH and theft, but no sexual convictions.

Defence barrister Catherine Bradshaw said Lusty is unemployed and had not worked for a number of years. Previously he had been a labourer. He had a low IQ of 68 and a mild learning disability. She said it had been a "one off" incident.

Judge Marie Catterson passed a five month jail sentence suspended for two years. Lusty must carry out 80 hours' unpaid work and attend ten sessions of Education and Training. He is banned from having contact with girls aged under 16 for seven years and will be on the Sex Offender Register, also for seven years.

The judge said the victim was a "down to earth girl" who had described his actions as "clowning around." But she went on: "Quite what your motive was, only you know."