May 2008

Paedophile escapes jail for abusing girl, 11, after judge says ‘she welcomed sex’

Jon Dixon, who groomed and abused an 11-year-old girl but escaped jail, leaves Manchester Crown Court with an unidentified woman

A paedophile who groomed and molested an 11-year-old girl walked free when a judge ruled the victim had ‘welcomed’ sexual activity.

Judge Robert Atherton triggered outrage after telling a court on Thursday that the child had invited the attack as she had a ‘sexual awareness’ which would make someone twice her age blush.

He rejected an assessment by the probation service that Jon Dixon was ‘manipulative and predatory’, and posed a ‘high risk of serious harm to children’.

Dixon, 20, punched the air with delight outside court while his victim’s mother sobbed after the judge sentenced him to a community order – claiming the paedophile would not get the treatment he needed in a prisons struggling to cope with a record population.

The judge had earlier referred to a psychologist’s report which claimed Dixon was not a high risk to young girls but was immature and needed help.

Last night, children’s charities spoke of their horror at the sentence and condemned the judge, while the victim’s family were too upset to comment.

Michele Elliott, of child protection charity Kidscape, accused the judge of ‘partially blaming’ the victim and called for him to be removed from hearing cases involving child abuse.

Manchester Crown Court heard the pair met in an internet chatroom in February last year called Flirtomatic, with the girl initially posing as a 20-year-old.

The website allows members to post their images online, ‘rate’ other members for attractiveness and sent ‘flirt icons’ to strangers to start up online conversations.

The court heard Dixon and his victim exchanged 900 text messages of a graphic sexual nature over a two-week period before the girl told Dixon she was actually aged 12 – although her real age was 11.

But the court heard that while the paedophile was ‘clearly shocked’, he continued to ‘pursue’ her – with more sexual text messages, emails and a request for pornographic photos of her before the pair met up.

‘It was clear the defendant’s attitude and intentions towards her had not changed despite her saying she was only 12,’ Jonathan Dickinson, prosecuting, said.

Dixon then told her to lie to her parents so they could meet up while she was out shopping with them.

On March 15 last year he met her during her school lunch break and sexually assaulted her.

Two days later they met again when Dixon tried to rape the girl in an alleyway but ‘physical difficulties’ prevented penetration.

He was arrested a few days later when the mother of one of the girl’s friends contacted the family after speaking to her own daughter.

Dixon, of Eccles, Greater Manchester, told police he had only kissed the girl at her request – but later pleaded guilty to meeting a child following sexual grooming, sexual assault of a child and attempted rape.

During the sentencing yesterday, the girl’s mother wept in court as a statement from her father was read out in court.

It said, “He (Dixon) was 19 and she was 11, which in my mind is wrong.

‘He was the adult in this, he must seriously know the difference between right and wrong. He could have walked away.’

Passing the three-year community order, the judge said Dixon had not deliberately sought out a child on the internet.

He said: ‘The fact is, she expresses herself in relation to sexual matters with an awareness which would make many twice her age blush and one hopes would be rare for an 11-year-old to experience.

‘The public expect sex offenders to go to custody. Is it right to put a 20-year-old man with all the sexual awareness he’s demonstrated and occasionally carried out, into custody for a substantial time?

‘Or is the public interest better served by addressing those psychological, personal difficulties which he has, and doing so in the community?’

Dixon was also made to sign the Sexual Offenders Register for five years.

Outside court, the girl’s father said he was ‘not happy’, but was too emotional to speak further.

But Miss Elliott told the Daily Mail: ‘This judge does not seem to understand that 11-year-old girls cannot give informed consent.

‘He seems to be partially blaming the victim – but she was groomed. The only reason she ‘welcomed’ sexual activity was because he groomed her to do so.

‘If Dixon goes on to assault another child, this judge must realise he is partially responsible. To ignore the advice of the probation service in this manner is the act of a Neanderthal.’

Natalie Cronin, Head of Policy for the NSPCC said the charity does not comment on individual cases, but added: ‘The severity of the sentence should reflect the severity of the crime. It is never acceptable for an adult to sexually abuse a child and the law is clear about this.’