June 2016

Chorus founder and Salvation Army musician jailed for grooming 13-year-old boy over Facebook

A disgraced Letchworth choirmaster and Salvation Army musician has been jailed for grooming a 13-year-old boy over Facebook.

Tony Ridgway-Cole, who founded City Chorus in January 2010, was slammed by a judge as predatory and remorseless when he appeared at Cambridge Crown Court on Monday.

The court heard that Ridgway-Cole, 39, had systematically groomed the boy for 18 months in 2012 and 2013, encouraging him to engage in sexual acts and repeatedly bringing up the topic of masturbation.

Ridgway-Cole’s victim, was set to testify against him in court but was spared this ordeal when Ridgway-Cole changed his plea to guilty at the last minute.

Judge Jonathan Cooper sentenced Ridgway-Cole to six months behind bars with the words: “Monetary compensation doesn’t go any way towards making up for the damage you have done to this boy.”

The court heard that Ridgway-Cole had emphasised his faith, Salvation Army links and role as a choirmaster when presenting himself to the boy and his family.

The boy’s mother said after the hearing: “It was a complete betrayal of trust. He took advantage of a vulnerable young boy.

“I’m just very pleased, this is more than I ever expected. It’s been two years of absolute awfulness. It’s a good day for justice.”

In addition to the jail sentence, Mr Cooper ordered Ridgway-Cole to pay £1,000 in costs, and imposed a restraining order and a five-year sexual harm prevention order.

Ridgway-Cole’s partner of 17 years, Colin Ridgway-Cole, looked on from the public gallery along with several City Chorus members.

After Ridgway-Cole pleaded guilty to inciting the boy to engage in sexual activity, the court agreed to let a second charge of causing a child to watch pornography involving two men lie on file.