A MAN from Clock Face who befriended a vulnerable young woman on Facebook and tricked her out of almost £1,000 was jailed for 19 months today (Monday, June 19).

Liverpool Crown Court heard that the 25-year-old victim trusted Brian Smith and fell for his tale of having financial difficulties and empty promises to pay her back.

According to the defence, Smith, 38, who has committed 98 previous offences, said his two children were involved in the Grenfell Tower fire, with his daughter suffering "severe burns as a result of that incident".

Smith's dishonesty came to light on March 6 when her worried mum learnt that she was out with a 'Mr Smith' and, on checking her bank account, discovered that sums of money had been withdrawn starting the previous month.

She asked her daughter, who suffers from genetic conditions leaving her with the mental age of a 12-year-old, to come home, which she did, and her mum then found out that Smith had been "in constant contact" with her since February 2.

He had claimed no one else could help with his financial problems and he had a lump sum of £589 due and would pay her back, said Anya Horwood, prosecuting.

She began meeting him by St Helens Library and handing over cash up to £200 and he ignored her requests to stop asking for money or meet her mum to discuss the situation.

The court heard that by the time the police were informed he had stolen £990 from her, none of which has been recovered.

Smith, of Pollitt Crescent, pleaded guilty to theft.

Miss Horwood said that an impact statement from the victim's mum showed that her daughter had had difficulty coping with the situation and had thought she was in trouble with the police.

She now no longer trusts people and said she wished she "was more normal" because the offence would not have happened.

The judge, Recorder Louis Browne, QC, told Smith: "Your offending caused her and her family considerable distress. She has lost her trust in people and found it hard to understand why anybody would do to her what you did."

Smith, a father-of-two, had also faced a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice, which he denied, and this was ordered to lie on the file. Recorder Browne said: "You took some steps to seek to stop her reporting his actions" and added that his only significant mitigation was his guilty plea.

He imposed an indefinite restraining order on Smith to keep away from her.

Osman Munir, defending, said that "no words could convey the degree of regret and remorse" the defendant felt.

He said he had not known that the victim was vulnerable when he targeted her. He suffers from anxiety, depression and a bleed on the brain, which means he has regular CT scans and is on medication.

However as he did not have any medical evidence, Recorder Browne said he could not take those claims into account.

Mr Munir also said that Smith's two children were involved in the Grenfell Tower fire.

"His daughter suffered severe burns as a result of that incident. He also tells me his accommodation was broken into as well."

He also told the court that earlier this month Smith had witnessed a fellow prisoner commit suicide while in jail.