January 2019

Pervert groomed schoolgirl

A schoolgirl groomed by a man described as ‘vermin’ by police said: “he put it on my sibling’s life not to tell anyone.”

Christopher Gatley 34, bombarded his victim with text messages, made a number of attempts to kiss her and inappropriately touch her.

The terrified youngster eventually found the courage to tell a teacher, friends and her mum after watching an abuse story line on Coronation Street and the BBC drama Three Girls.

Manchester Crown Court heard that Gatley began taking an interest in the victim after meeting her.

Charlotte Crangle, prosecuting, described how Gatley managed to obtain the girl’s phone number, and would regularly send her text messages, including one asking what she would do if he tried to kiss her.

Gatley told the victim to delete the messages or it would be ‘game over’. Police were able to recover most of them.

Ms Crangle told the court that the victim started to feel uncomfortable around the defendant, and tried to avoid being on her own with him as he would attempt to touch her bottom.

On one occasion he told her to come to his home, close her eyes and hold out her hands, and proceeded to kiss her.

On another occasion, when Gatley was visiting the girl’s house, he put his hand down the back of her jeans.

He also offered the victim money for a new coat and to get her nails done.

The crown argued that this was a part of a grooming process, and intended to make sure she stayed silent.

Sarah Haque for the defence told the court that Gatley had struggled with his mental health and had shown a willingness to explore the issues which led to his offending.

Gatley, of Gorton Road, Reddish, was jailed for 20 months on Friday by Judge Suzanne Goddard QC, after pleading guilty to four counts of sexual activity with a child.

He was also ordered to sign the sex offenders register for ten years, issued with a restraining order for ten years, and made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order for six years.

“He told me not to tell anyone, he put it on my sibling’s life not to tell anyone”

The young victim and her mum have courageously spoken to the M.E.N to urge other young people to speak out against abusers.

She described how Gatley made her swear on her younger sibling’s life not to tell anyone what he was doing.

The schoolgirl said: “At first, I didn’t really realise what was happening. I knew that it was wrong, but I didn’t know in which sense.

“He told me not to tell anyone, he put it on my sibling’s life not to tell anyone.

“Every time I saw him I feared he would know if I told someone. I would just be intimated of what he would do.

“I didn’t owe him anything, but at the time, I thought I did. I know now that I didn’t.

“I hate saying ‘I know that it was wrong now’, because I knew then that it was wrong, but I just didn’t know what to do in that situation.

“Everyone thinks – even me – I thought that if that ever happened to me, I’d tell someone or fight them off but it’s harder when it literally happens to you, than what you would think.

“He just made me feel intimidated and scared every single day.

“Even now I walk around the streets fearing if I ever see him. I have nightmares all the time of the incident itself.

“I try not think about it but every single day it’s with me. There’s no getting away from it.

“I understand that everyone says it will get better. It probably will, but it will still be there forever.”

The youngster was too frightened to say anything to anyone about what was happening to her, but after seeing abuse storylines on television, she plucked up the courage to confide in a member of staff at her school.

She added: “It was Bethany Platt going through a similar situation but worse, and Three Girls about Rochdale.

“It was just hard to watch but it gave me the confidence. I didn’t want the situation to get worse.

“It’s a bad situation but it could have been worse. I know that the emotions I am feeling are probably the same to someone that’s been through the whole thing.

“It did give me the confidence to speak out. I have regretted speaking out in a way, because now it’s always there in a way, even more.

“I know that something’s going to get done about it, but not as much as it’s affected me. Whatever he gets won’t be enough, or change anything, because it’s still happened.”

The schoolgirl confided in her school’s safeguarding officer to begin with.

“I wanted to tell my mum but I didn’t want to say it to my mum myself,” she added. “I just knew that my mum would blame herself because she did let him, but no one was to know what was happening apart from me or him.

“There was a bit of relief but I didn’t really know about the court system, or what was going to happen. When I found out it would take so long I did regret it a little bit, but I feel as if it will help myself and a lot of other people that I’ve done it.

“I would encourage other people to speak out and to not blame themselves.

“I feel there’s a stereotype on how people dress or what they look like, to say that they deserved it or asked for it, but I wear make up and fake nails and I didn’t want anything of it.

“I just feel like, even though they might not know it’s wrong, it’s not what should happen or what they deserve, but in the long run it will be better.

“Right now I don’t see any positive but I know in the long run it will be better.

“I probably can (recover) but it’s always going to be there. I’d tell victims to speak out and not be scared or intimidated.”

The victim’s heartbroken mother says she is still struggling to come to terms with what happened to her daughter, and has been plagued by guilt.

She said: “It was horrible. I felt like I should have known. I think about it every day.

“I haven’t coped, I’ve tried to cope and stay strong for her, but I haven’t.

“We are always living in fear, we still do.

“He could have admitted it and saved her the stress of years waiting for the evidence to come back and he only went guilty the week before.

“I thought she’d have to relive it and get interrogated, it wasn’t fair. It was on my mind every day.

“At the moment I’m not sure how we will recover, but hopefully one day we will.

“It has affected us as a family, it’s been horrible.

“It’s even affected me at work, I can’t function, I can’t concentrate, I was ready to give it up last week because I couldn’t do it.

“I think now because it’s getting to the end it’s finally hit me.

“She used to be an outgoing bubbly girl. She’s not anymore and she hasn’t been for ages.”