Febuary 2011

Man fails in challenge to overturn life sentence for grooming schoolgirl

A man who was jailed for grooming and abusing a 15-year-old schoolgirl – and threatening to burn and bottle her friend – will stay behind bars indefinitely after failing in a Court of Appeal challenge to his convictions.

Paul Andrew Cox, 47, of West Bradford, near Holsworthy, was given a potentially lifelong imprisonment for public protection (IPP) sentence at Exeter Crown Court in August 2009.

On Wednesday, he began an attempt to overturn his convictions and his open-ended sentence, but had his case thrown out of the London court by three senior judges.

Lord Justice Richards, Mr Justice Eady and Sir Christopher Holland said “no cogent material” had been put forward to cast doubt on the safety of the convictions or the severity of the sentence.

The court heard how Cox began an online conversation with one young girl through an internet chatroom and was given a mobile telephone number for another, a 15-year-old.

A series of text messages were exchanged, including indecent photos of the girl, before they arranged to meet at a Tesco branch in Honiton, in February 2009. They then went to her home and engaged in sexual activity.

Around the same time, the other young girl received a series of text messages from Cox’s phone, demanding that she send indecent photos of herself.

When the girl refused, messages were sent threatening to tell her parents, and including threats to “burn” and “bottle” her, Mr Justice Eady said.

Cox denied that he thought the girl he met was under 16 and said he had not sent the threatening text messages to the other. He claimed he no longer had that phone at the time they were sent.

In his appeal arguments, he claimed the trial judge did not sum up the evidence correctly to the jury and the girl had lied in her evidence about what she told him about her age.

His IPP sentence – almost identical to a standard life term – was also too tough, because there were doubts about the credibility of one of his victims, he said.

But the judges rejected all of his claims, meaning Cox will remain behind bars until he can convince the Parole Board he is safe to be released.

Cox had been convicted of two counts of sexual activity with a child, causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, meeting a child after grooming, encouraging the commission of an offence and putting a person in fear of violence through harassment.