December 2017

Jailed: Weardale businessman cleared of sex offences 8 years ago, admits attacks on teenage girls

THE depraved double-life of a seemingly respectable businessman can be exposed after he was jailed for sex crimes against two teenage girls.

James Swan – privately-educated and an apparent pillar of his County Durham community – can be unmasked as a devious and manipulative pervert.

Photography business owner Swan, 46, was cleared eight years ago of sexual offences against another teenager following a trial at Teesside Crown Court.

When two different victims came forward last year, police seized his computer and found evidence he was a “convincing liar”, the court heard today.

The damning evidence included thousands of messages to one girl, and left Swan with no option but to plead guilty to four offences from a decade ago.

He was jailed for five years, and was told by Judge Stephen Ashurst: “It may well be your public downfall is going to be part of your punishment.”

Swan’s business is in tatters after orders dried up, and he had to move out of the family home in Weardale.

Prosecutor Richard Bennett said he groomed one girl over several years and also attacked another older girl.

In December 2009, he was cleared by a jury of sexually assaulting a teenager who told the court he said he was turned on by his wife’s infidelity.

The case provided “significant background evidence”, Mr Bennett said.

He said of the complainant from the 2009 case: “She alleged that James Swan began to discuss his wife’s infidelity and how much it turned him on.

“He told her about how he and his wife had an open marriage and both had affairs. He told the girl he believed his wife was out that night cheating on him.”

When the two other girls came forward last year and told of their own ordeals at Swan’s hands, there were many similarities with the earlier case.

Swan attacked the older girl in his home in the remote village of Rookhope when his wife was out, and the teenager believed she was going to be raped.

Mr Bennett said the assault only stopped when his wife rang and left an answerphone message.

The whole incident left his victim “badly frightened”, the court heard.

Swan went on to groom his second victim for years with sexualised messages, flattering the girl with attention from what the prosecution said was a “well-spoken handsome man”.

Mr Bennett said: “The sexual grooming went on for page after page and month after month.

“It was not encouraged initially but it was grooming that ensured she would keep chatting to him.”

Mr Bennett told the court that the information from his computer revealed determined grooming of the younger girl.

The grooming turned to sexual acts with the girl, who initially welcomed the attention but came to recognise its sinister nature as she got older.

Both girls gave victim impact statements to the court.

The elder said his actions had left her feeling “worthless” and with a “total dread” of intimacy.

She said in her statement: “If me saying no to him did not stand for anything then what power did I have?”

The younger girl said: “I felt completely worthless and sometimes wonder what my childhood might have been like had I not met James.”

Mr Hill said Swan was aware he had brought shame on the name of his family, who are well-known in the Pennine community where he was brought up.

Swan admitted sexual assault, causing a person to engage in a sexual act without consent and two charges of sexual activity with a child at an earlier hearing.

Judge Ashurst said his 11th-hour guilty pleas – on the day he was due to stand trial – had saved his victims the ordeal of having to give evidence, but they still had months of dread leading up to then.

He told Swan, now of Nenthead, Alston, Cumbria: “It is clear you were acting out your sexual fantasies with two young girls who were so much younger than you.”

The judge added that Swan – educated at Uppingham School in Rutland – had enjoyed a “comfortable upbringing”, and told him: “Your naming and shaming in public, I’m afraid, is just the necessary consequence of your behaviour, and it may be your public downfall is going to be part of your punishment.”

A Sexual Harm Prevention Order restricting Swan’s computer and internet use was imposed for ten years, along with a barring order banning him from working with children.