A drunk pensioner who sexually assaulted an 11-year-old schoolgirl on a bus to Burnley has been spared jail.

Alfie Holt, 71, committed the offences as the victim was travelling with her mother and brother in June last year.

Burnley Crown Court heard the the retired painter and decorate 'clocked' the victim and got up from his seat to move 'directly next to her'.

Prosecutor Lisa Worsley said her mother was 'concerned and kept an eye on him' and gestured for her daughter to sit close to her but 'she said she was fine'.

She told the court: "[The mother] was continuously looking backwards and forwards at her daughter and didn't want to cause a scene.

"She heard her daughter say "sorry" and then saw Holt touching her on the leg. She immediately shouted "Oy, get off her. I saw what you did."

Another male passenger told police that he saw Holt move to sit next to the victim and 'thought his behaviour was strange'.

He then witnessed the pensioner put his hand up the girls skirt and 'could not believe what he was seeing'.

The court heard that the passenger stood up and grabbed Holt and he was 'ultimately detained'.

The bus driver stopped the bus and the defendant was prevented from getting off until police arrived to arrest him.

Officers described how Holt 'smelt strongly of alcohol and was unsteady on his feet'.

The schoolgirl was interviewed the next day and said she initially thought she had 'accidentally touched' Holt.

The defendant then replied saying "What, what, what?" before touching her on the leg on two occasions and asking if she was going to Burnley.

Ms Worlsey said the victim was left feeling 'confused, scared and nervous'.

She said: "Immediately after the incident, her mother gave her a cuddle and she started to cry."

In his police interview, Holt accepted getting on the bus and seeing the victim before moving to sit on the back seat.

However he told officers that he accidentally put his hand on her knee 'due to a movement of the bus going round the corner'.

The court heard that he had been drinking pints and spirits in Nelson and was 'alcohol dependent'.

A statement from the victims mother read out at court told how her daughter has undergone 'psychological changes' and will 'not under any circumstances travel on a bus'

Holt, of Fairweather Court, Padiham, pleaded guilty to sexual assault.

Ms Worsley said he has 12 convictions on his record, including offences of attempted rape, indecent exposure and indecent assault in the 1960s and 1970s.

His last criminal offence was committed 16 years ago.

Defence barrister Isobel Thomas said Holt's previous convictions 'don't go to suggest that he is somebody who has an ongoing and predatory attitude towards young children in a sexual way'.

She told the court: "The defendant says he was highly intoxicated and he in fact has little recollection of getting on the bus or what happened on the bus.

"He does fully accept thought the way he behaved and what the prosecution witnesses say must be right.

"He tells me he is disgusted by the way he behaved and understands what a traumatic experience this must have been for the young girl.

"He does have previous convictions but any serious convictions are now of some age. He has in recent times live a law abiding, normal life.

"His previous convictions don't go to suggest that he is somebody who has an ongoing and predatory attitude towards young children in a sexual way."

Ms Thomas said the defendant's previous sexual offences were committed against adults and the probation service say he is 'not a high risk towards children'.

She added: "He's made a significant change since this offence. He has stopped drinking alcohol.

"He was drinking really heavily before this offence. He realised the negative impact impact drinking was having on him.

"It clearly affected his judgement and the way he behaved. He has tried to make this change in his life.

Holt was given a nine-month jail sentence, suspended for two years with a 20-day rehabilitation activity day and ordered to attend a sexual offences treatment programme.

He was also made subject to a 10-year sexual harm prevention order and place on the sex offenders register.