An ad for a dating website that appeared on Facebook with a picture of a woman in a school uniform has been banned for potentially encouraging grooming of young children.

The ad - headed "Older Men Wanted" - read: "Browse local singles who are looking to date older men only at Date Matures!", while an accompanying picture showed a young woman wearing what appeared to be a school uniform with the visible part of her shirt unbuttoned and her tie hanging loosely around her neck.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received a complaint that the ad was offensive, harmful and irresponsible for portraying the model as a school-aged child.

The advertiser, Mate1.com, did not respond to the complaint.

Facebook said the ad was in violation of its guidelines and had been disabled, as had any other ads using the same image. They had also issued a warning to the advertiser.

The ASA said the model would be understood by readers as being of school age due to her youthful appearance and the impression that she was wearing a school uniform.

It said: "In the context of the other claims in the ad - 'Older Men Wanted', 'datemature.com' and 'Browse local singles who are looking to date older men Only at Date Matures!', and the fact that the ad appeared on a social networking site - we considered that the image was irresponsible because it could be understood as an allusion to, and encouragement of, the so-called 'grooming' of young children.

"For these same reasons we considered that the ad was likely to cause serious and widespread offence."

It added: "Although the ad appeared to be targeting 'older men', we considered the implication that young children could also join the dating service, in order to meet older men, was a breach of the code rules."

It ruled that the ad must not appear again in its current form.

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