January 2018

Career of ‘role model’ soldier, based near Thirsk, in ruins after he groomed schoolboy for sex

A ‘ROLE model’ soldier’s career and his hopes to join the police force are in ruins after he groomed a schoolboy for sex and molested him in his car.

Elliott Houston-Birch, who was also caught with indecent images of children, is behind bars and will be on the sex offenders’ register for life.

The 28-year-old was stationed at Dishforth Airfield, near Thirsk, with the Royal Logistics Corps when the crimes were committed in 2016.

He met the 14-year-old on the gay chat site Grindr and took him to a supermarket car park in Northallerton where they engaged in sex acts.

Teesside Crown Court heard that the day the boy was abused, he had been found drunk by police and returned home – but later left to meet Houston-Birch.

At around the same time, the army private was showing a colleague pictures and videos of child abuse which he had been downloading for years.

The court heard that the other private pretended to be interested until he could gather enough evidence to take to the authorities to investigate.

He was said to have been sickened by what he saw after Houston-Birch told him: “I’ve been saving them for years, and slowly built up a good collection.”

The colleague first became worried when Houston-Birch asked him what he thought was the youngest a girl could be for sex to be okay – and said he reckoned 14.

A short time later, he received some indecent images from the pervert, and was invited into his room at the barracks to see some more and watch videos.

Jailing him for four years, Judge Amanda Rippon told Houston-Birch: “He was so concerned, he decided to play along with you to get evidence about your behaviour.”

Simon Blakebrough, mitigating, said Houston-Birch joined the Army in 2013 with the aim of becoming a police officer and was highly-regarded by peers.

One annual appraisal described him as “the workhorse of the troop” and added: “He is a fine role-model, an excellent ambassador and a pleasure to command.”

Mr Blakebrough added: “Notwithstanding the references, he didn’t enjoy the army, and struggled with his sexuality. He says he was bullied.”

Houston-Birch, of Brownlow Road, Wirral, admitted two charges of sexual activity with a child.

He also pleaded guilty to 20 various counts of making indecent images of children.

Judge Rippon told him: “Your longstanding ambition to be a police officer is now completely and forever out of reach.”