Berkshire

Gosport paedophiles aged 76 avoid jail over boy's abuse

Windsor Castle
Image caption Thomas took up the position as a steward at Windsor after regular visits to the castle

Two 76-year-old men, one of them a Windsor Castle steward, have received suspended jail terms for abusing a young boy 25 years ago.

Castle steward Ross Thomas, from Slough, pleaded guilty to gross indecency with a child and indecent assault at Portsmouth Crown Court.

Leonard Bennett, of Gosport, admitted the same offences and a third charge of indecent assault.

The victim was aged between 11 and 12 when the abuse happened.

Sentencing the pair, Judge Ian Pearson described them as "Portsmouth's oldest paedophiles".

The men were sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for each charge to run concurrently, suspended for two years.

'Very serious'

They targeted the boy over an 18-month period up to May 1986 after he joined a gun club in Gosport, the court heard.

Kerry Maylin, prosecuting, said the boy was abused in various places including public toilets and the foreshore in a local park.

She said that the abuse "affected his behaviour at school, it affected his perception of himself and he used coping mechanisms that got him in trouble at school and caused him difficulties for some considerable time".

Judge Pearson told the men: "What you did in relation to the victim was very serious.

"You did groom him and you did indecently assault him over the period of some months and exploited his vulnerability."

The judge added that he had suspended the prison terms because he considered the pair no longer to be a threat to children because of their age.

The court heard that Thomas, of Nixey Close, had been invited to take up the position as a steward at Windsor Castle as he was a regular visitor following his retirement in 1997.

The court was also told that he would now have to leave the position because he has contact with children in the role.

The pair were ordered to sign on the sex offenders register for 10 years. They were disqualified from working with children for life.

They were also ordered to pay £1,000 compensation to their victim.

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites