December 2006

Ex-labour worker groomed teenager

A former Labour Party organiser has been jailed for 15 months for grooming a 13-year-old boy on the internet.

Peter Tuffley, 28, was working in the North West when he took the teenager back to his flat in Liverpool after they met through an internet chatroom.

He denied the boy’s claim they kissed and cuddled in his bed and was cleared of sexual activity with a child.

Tuffley, of Ridgewood, East Sussex, was convicted of sexual grooming on the internet and child abduction.

Bolton Crown Court heard that Tuffley called the boy, “cute” and “babe” in emails and text messages before taking the youngster to stay overnight at his flat on 12 March 2005.

On a chatroom website, the boy claimed to be 18, gay and from the North West. He later told police he admitted to Tuffley he was still at school – but told him he was 15.

Both defendant and victim had profiles and photos of themselves on the website and the boy said that he was attracted to older men.

Judge Kushner, sentencing, told the former assistant to Labour Party chairman Hazel Blears that it gave her no pleasure to see him in this situation.

She said: “You are well educated, you have charm, charisma and ambition.

“I accept that it was the boy who made the running to meet you but the jury decided that you should have been aware that it was a juvenile who was contacting you.”

She said she did think he was a predator and a non-custodial sentence would send out the “wrong message”.

Career lost

Adults should not approach minors even if it is the child who initiates the contact, she added.

Ray Herman, defending, said Tuffley’s loneliness and high-powered, stressful job had led to a string of extraordinary errors of judgment.

He had lost his political career as a result and now had no chance of fulfilling his aspirations to become a MP, he added.

Tuffley was also sentenced to six months imprisonment, to run concurrently, for abducting the youngster and placed the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years.