February 2018

Newton Aycliffe man jailed for sexually touching underage girl

A man who sent inappropriate messages to an underage girl was jailed after sexually assaulting the teenager.

Gary Thorogood, 53, was said to have used an element of “grooming” with the girl before committing the offence as the pair watched television.

Durham Crown Court heard she initially thought it was “a mistake”, but realising what was happening, made excuses to get away from him.

It culminated in a complaint being made to police about his behaviour and Thorogood was arrested.

He made denials and, appearing at a plea hearing at the court last June, denied a single charge of sexual activity with a child, dating from 2015.

The case was adjourned for a trial, listed at the court last month, with the girl anticipating having to go through with the ordeal of giving evidence.

But, when the case was called into court at the scheduled start of the trial, Thorogood changed his plea to guilty.

Sentence was adjourned to allow the victim to be invited to present a personal impact statement for the court.

Shaun Dodds, prosecuting, said in messages between the two before the incident, Thorogood used “inappropriate” language, suggesting they could “snuggle up” together, and implying she could be his “girlfriend”, while asking her for “a snog”.

But, Mr Dodds said Thorogood was aware he should not be sending her such messages as he asked her to delete them.

Reading from the girl’s impact statement, Mr Dodds said she initially thought his messages were “jokes”, but she said on reflection she believes he was taking advantage of her vulnerability.

She added that she believes his actions affected her schooling and she suffered in subsequent examinations, earning poor qualifications.

Mr Dodds said the girl even lost trust in any man and had to be subsequently taught by only female teachers.

Martin Towers, mitigating, said the defendant, of Tanfield Place, Newton Aycliffe, has suffered ill-health since he made his admissions and has had to undergo a triple heart bypass after a heart attack, spending three weeks in hospital.

Mr Towers said since he made his admission, he has also been “ostracised” by those who were aware of the conviction.

Jailing him for 13 months, Judge Simon Hickey said there was an element of grooming and an aggravating feature was the large disparity in their ages.

He made Thorogood subject to an indefinite Sexual Harm Prevention Order, plus notification as a sex offender, for ten years.