September 2017

Chelmsford pensioner told teen ‘you must be the best kisser in your year’ before sexual assault

An elderly man who told a 13-year-old girl “you must be the best kisser in your year” before sexually assaulting her has been spared jail.

Peter Clark, 71, of Portreath Place, Chelmsford, pleaded guilty to one count of sexual activity with a female child under 16 and two counts of making indecent photographs of children when he appeared before Chelmsford Crown Court on August 3.

He returned to Chelmsford Crown Court today (September 6) for sentencing.

Prosecuting, Diana Pigot, told the court that her family had warned him before about his behaviour regarding the way he would kiss the victim goodbye.

As the victim grew older, she would go out with friends and on some occasions come home late. Her mother had told Clark of this. He asked if he should look out for her, to which the mother declined.

On June 7 last year, as the victim was walking home from school, she bumped into Clark who said to her: “Thanks for the kiss,” referring to a peck on the cheek she had given him on her birthday.

He told her “you must be the best kisser in your year,” and asked her whether she had any boyfriends. She said no and told him that she had to go home.

He offered to give her a lift, which she refused, before he leaned forward and kissed her, putting his tongue into her mouth. The victim attempted to pull away but the defendant had his hands on her shoulders and pulled closer to her.

The victim managed to evade his grasp and told him that she must go home. She then told her mother everything that had happened to her.

When interviewed by police she said, “I was really scared,” and expressed concern about bumping into Clark on her way to school in the following days.

On June 9, police attended his home and examined two laptops which contained indecent images of children. This included in total, two category A (the worst category), 25 category B and 21 category C images.

Internet search history on the laptops showed that Clark had been actively seeking out images of children of a similar age to the victim.

When he was arrested and interviewed by police, he said: “I think I know what you are talking about but nothing happened. I hold my hands up but there is nothing in it,” referring to the kiss he had with the victim, adding that it was a normal way of saying goodbye to her and that it was non-sexual.

Clark was also questioned about a diary that showed that he was recording the victim’s movements and half-term dates. He told police that he was looking out for the victim’s best interests and that it was an agreement he had with the victim’s mother, which she denied.

Ms Pigot said: “It gives a flavour as to the fact that this was a person keeping more than an eye out for the victim.”

Judge Turner then addressed the defendant by saying: “You find yourself for the first time in your life in the dock facing sentence for unpleasant sexual offences. By some way, the most serious is your exploitation of the victim.

“On that occasion, when she was just 13 and you were 70, you took shameful advantage of her when you kissed her and penetrated her mouth with your tongue. Although the act is an isolated one, it needs to be seen in context.

“You crossed a boundary which you should not have crossed. You created some sort of diary watching her movements, times of sightings and so on. You said you were looking out for her. I reject that. This was some sort of small stalking behaviour.

“Although your behaviour towards the victim is bad enough, when police looked at your laptops there was a small quantity of child images, indicative of some sort of interest in children and young people.

“It is tiny quantities compared to many cases which has been my unpleasant nature to deal with, but nonetheless it goes against your intentions to the victim. The breach of trust is obvious. The age disparity is gross.

“Against that you pleaded guilty, which has spared the victim the ordeal of a trial. Since your arrest you have not had any brushes with the law and I’m provided to accept you have a decent work record and are not currently in the best of health.

“On one view, you deserve an immediate term of custody. However, I’m confident that you will not receive the slightest help in prison.”

Peter Clarke was sentenced to nine months imprisonment suspended for two years for one count of sexual activity with a female under the age of 16.

Judge Turner QC also issued a three-month prison sentence for both counts of making indecent photographs of children to run concurrently with count one, which were also suspended for two years.

Clark will also be placed on Horizon, a sexual offenders’ treatment programme, and will be issued with a Sexual Harm Prevention Order of six years. Included in that order, he must notify Essex Police of any social contact he makes with any individual who has children under the age of 18.

He has been placed on the Sex Offenders Register for ten years. Clark must also complete 25 days rehabilitation activity requirement and pay £300 in prosecution costs within 28 days.

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