Feb 2007

Anger as paedophile fined £500 for sex with 16-year-old

A judge was criticised by Barnardo’s today after a convicted paedophile who bought sex from a vulnerable 16-year-old walked free from court.

Judge Jim Spencer fined 51-year-old Kevin Harrison £500 and ordered him to pay £150 costs, reportedly warning him to “keep himself to himself” after the ex-security guard admitted paying for the sexual favours of a girl aged 16.

The offence, which outlaws sex with prostitutes under the age of 18, carries a maximum sentence of seven years’ jail.

Teesside Crown Court heard Harrison made contact with the girl on her mobile phone.

The pair were spotted in his car by undercover police officers on an industrial estate in Thornaby, Stockton, on 27 March 2006.

The teenager claimed to be his niece, but she could not answer simple questions about his personal details and he was arrested.

Wendy Shepherd, a specialist who works for Barnardo’s SECOS (Sexual Exploitation of Children On the Streets) project in Middlesbrough, said the sentence sent out the wrong message.

“The judge has not used the full weight of the law available to him,” she said.

“We were not expecting the full seven years but the fact is he could have imposed a prison sentence, and he certainly could have imposed a Sex Offences Prohibition Order to stop the defendant from being in the company of under-18s, or even with under-18s in a car.

“This was not a one-off offence.

“The judge has failed to see the danger that this man poses.”

Ms Shepherd knew the victim through her work with vulnerable youngsters and said she had been abused and exploited throughout her life.

The teenager entered into the arrangement with the defendant to pay for her drug habit.

Harrison, of Yarm Road, Stockton, gave up his job after pleading guilty at a previous hearing at the magistrates court, thinking he would be jailed.

The bench passed the case to the crown court as the magistrates believed they had insufficient powers to sentence him.

But Judge Spencer fined him yesterday and, according to the Northern Echo newspaper, added: “Keep yourself to yourself so far as youngsters are concerned.”

The prosecution attempted to have Harrison classed as a dangerous offender, with conditions attached to his future behaviour.

But the judge rejected the application, saying: “Why should a girl of 16 who wants to sleep with him not be able to – it is not a crime, is it?”

He was believed to be referring to the normal age of consent for women, rather than sex with prostitutes.

Harrison has a string of offences against children on his record, dating back to 1979 when he was jailed for two years for enticing two girls into his car and abusing them.