York & North Yorkshire

Richmond counsellor jailed for child sex abuse

Robert Fothergill Image copyright North Yorkshire Police
Image caption Robert Fothergill admitted sexually assaulting a young boy

A counsellor who worked with vulnerable schoolchildren across the north of England has been jailed for a string of child sex offences.

Robert Fothergill, 47, of Richmond, North Yorkshire, who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a young boy, was handed a six-year sentence.

He admitted seven charges, which also included possessing indecent images.

Teesside Crown Court heard the married father was "a man with a dark side" who had "abused his position of trust".

He had worked at schools across North Yorkshire, Durham, Cleveland and Tyne and Wear.

'Darker side'

The court heard Fothergill, of White Lands, specialised in working with vulnerable people aged five to 18.

He admitted to police he had used a website where he would watch children as young as nine perform sex acts.

Judge Tony Briggs placed him on the sex offenders register and said: "It is plain on your public side there are very many good things to say about you.

"Unhappily, you have a darker side which is illustrated by your admission to these matters."

'Cannot undo harm'

The self-employed counsellor was arrested in February, after an investigation into a West Yorkshire man he had been communicating with.

In April, Fothergill admitted sexually assaulting a boy, causing or inciting a child and a boy under 13 to engage in sexual activity, and one count of possessing and three of distributing indecent images.

All of the offences happened in North Yorkshire.

Tom Mitchell, defending, said Fothergill took medication for "restless leg syndrome" and a known side effect was being less able to combat urges.

Speaking after the sentencing, Det Insp Fiona Wynne, of North Yorkshire Police, said: "Fothergill's admission of guilt has at least spared his victims the ordeal of going through a trial.

"However, nothing can ever undo the harm he has caused both to the children he has directly abused or those whose pictures he has shared."

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