Man admits sexual activity with a child – but avoids jail
A man who ‘abducted’ a 14-year-old boy he had met through online gaming was caught after colleagues at the Nuneaton hotel where he worked saw a CCTV recording of him cuddling the youngster.
Scott Sumner pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to charges of child abduction, by taking the boy away from the care and control of his parents, and sexual activity with a child.
Sumner, 33, of Armson Road, Exhall, who also admitted downloading an indecent video of a child, was told by Judge Peter Cooke he had come ‘perilously close’ to being jailed.
But instead he was sentenced to 18 months in prison suspended for two years and was ordered to take part in a sex offender programme and a rehabilitation activity, and to register as a sex offender for ten years.
Prosecutor Tom Kenning said the incidents had taken place between January and May 2017, but there had been delays because of ‘extensive consideration of the evidence’ and examination of CCTV footage seized from the Holiday Inn in Nuneaton.
Mr Kenning said the boy was 13-14 at that time, and lived with his parents in Gloucestershire – a distance of about 90 miles from Sumner, who worked nights on reception at the Holiday Inn.
They became acquainted through an Xbox Live online gaming group in which they both participated, and started communicating more directly through Facebook after the boy got a phone for his 14th birthday.
Sumner was clearly aware of the boy’s age, because in an exchange of messages with a friend at work, he wrote: “That 13-year-old is still trying to get me to meet him.”
His friend warned him: “Mate, it just screams paedo-hunter.”
Sumner responded: “Don’t worry, I ain’t. Just Xbox.”
But in fact he did meet the boy twice after travelling to Gloucestershire on his motorbike, once going to the cinema with him and the second time taking him to Tintern Abbey.
Then in May 2017 the boy told his mother he was going to spend the night at a friend’s home – but instead met up with Sumner who had parked his motorbike in a road near the boy’s home.
They rode back to Exhall where they spent the rest of that day in Sumner’s bedroom watching television and playing computer games until about 10pm when Sumner was due to go to work.
He took the boy with him, and when things were quiet on the reception desk in the early hours of the morning, they sat together on a sofa in the foyer area.
And a CCTV camera by the reception desk showed the boy lying across Sumner who was hugging him and stroking his hair and his back for some time and touching his leg.
Mr Kenning pointed out that nothing sexual had happened between them at Sumner’s home, and no clothing was removed while they were on the sofa at the hotel.
After Sumner’s shift ended, they returned to his home where he had a shower and, with him wearing boxer shorts, they fell asleep, one under the covers and one on top.
There was no sexual contact between them in the bedroom, and later that day Sumner took the boy home, by which time he had been away for around 28 hours.
But colleagues at the hotel became concerned after seeing what was on the CCTV recording and spoke to their manager who contacted the police.
When Sumner was arrested, a memory card in his video camera had a seven-minute downloaded video of two underage boys engaging in sexual activity.
After the boy was traced, he told the police there had been no sexual touching, just ‘some hugging,’ although Sumner had accidentally touched him between his legs for which he apologised.
Sentencing Sumner, Judge Cooke told him: “I accept what’s said about the innocent way the two of you came into contact, it’s not a sinister grooming of the kind the courts often see.
“You are a gay man, that’s fine, but this is the same as a heterosexual man forming a relationship with a 14-year-old girl.
“The fact is, there was a sexual attraction.
“The messages you exchanged with your colleague show you realised how close to the line you were treading, and the two of you progressed to meeting. There was a degree of subterfuge.”
The judge said that what happened at the hotel was ‘at the bottom of the range of seriousness,’ and there was cause for optimism that Sumner had learned his lesson – but that he had come ‘perilously close’ to custody.