November 2008

Five years for paedophile ex-councillor

A former city councillor was last night beginning a five-year jail sentence for molesting an 11-year-old boy and threatening the youngster’s mother in a bid to cover his tracks.

A former city councillor was last night beginning a five-year jail sentence for molesting an 11-year-old boy and threatening the youngster’s mother in a bid to cover his tracks. Ex-Paston councillor Gilbert Benn (48) was locked up at Peterborough Crown Court yesterday having earlier been found guilty of twice attempting to rape the young boy in the city.

The two attacks, which took place on a single night in the summer of 2006, were the culmination of a series of sexual assaults endured by the same victim over a period of 18 months.

When detectives were alerted to the catalogue of sickening abuse, Benn made a vain attempt to derail the investigation by intimidating the boy’s mother and threatening to have her killed.

Sentencing him to prison and banning him from ever working with children again, Judge Sean Enright told Benn his serious crimes amounted to a “gross breach of trust”.

Benn had denied the charges but, following a seven-day trial in September, was found guilty of two counts of attempted rape, five counts of sexual assault and four counts of witness intimidation.

The jury decided the former politician, who served as Labour Party councillor for the Paston ward between 1982 and 1986, had tried to rape the 11-year-old after forcing him to lie next to him naked.

Jurors also found he had sexually assaulted the youngster by touching him inappropriately over a sustained period dating back to 2005, and that he subsequently made a series of intimidating visits and phone calls to the child’s mother, including threatening to send a hit-man to target her.

Judge Enright said: “These matters came to light and you attempted to intimidate (his mother) into not giving evidence. There were determined efforts from you to undermine the investigation.”

Benn, of Millfield Court, in Dogsthorpe Road, Millfield, Peterborough, was brought to court from custody and wore a dark blazer, grey jumper and striped, open-necked shirt.

He maintained his composure throughout yesterday’s hearing, but supporters, including his 89-year-old disabled mother, were visibly shaken as he was led down to the cells to begin his sentence.

Earlier, defence barrister Michael Magee had urged the judge to show leniency because of Benn’s previous good character and his responsibilities in caring for his mother.

He said: “Mr Benn has held positions of considerable responsibility within the community prior to this.

“His mother is 89 years old and has a history of strokes, which have resulted in her being of limited mobility, and Benn plays a role in supporting her emotionally and physically on a daily basis.

“The time he is in prison will be time that he is not able to provide that care for his mother.”