August 2006

‘Disgust’ at sex abuse sentence

A Chesterfield woman who was sexually abused by a paedophile over 30 years ago has slammed the laws which mean her attacker has been sent to prison for just TWO years.

Thomas Cunningham (59), of Spencer Street, Chesterfield, pleaded guilty at Derby Crown Court to five charges of indecent assault between 1971 and 1975 when his victim was aged between nine and 12.

Cunningham was sentenced to two years in prison, was put on the sex offenders register for ten years and was disqualified from working with children.

But the woman – who wants to remain anonymous – says that she is disgusted with the light sentence which has been given because the crimes were committed in the 1970s when different punishments applied, so historical sentences applied.

The 43-year-old who now also lives in Chesterfield said: “I am disgusted. He would have got 14 years if he had committed the crime now and pleaded not guilty, and seven for a guilty plea.”

“I don’t understand why somebody can get a sentence that they would have got in 1972 for this crime. It just doesn’t seem fair.”

Cunningham sexually abused the victim when she lived in Matlock – assaulting her several times a week – with the incidents continuing even after he moved to Chesterfield and only stopping when she eventually stood up to him.

The abuse has had lasting effects on the victim who has suffered from post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety attacks which finally pushed her into seeing a councellor a few years ago.

She said: “It was only after counselling that I reported the abuse as I felt more empowered. I had always thought you just got over things and just got on with life but then I felt angry and felt this couldn’t happen to anybody else.

“I would definitely advise people to come forward as things like this need to brought into the open. “No amount of counselling can make you feel how I felt when he was led away.”