October 2009

Ex Sunderland Empire boss Paul Ryan jailed over paedophile affair

SEEDY internet messages helped snare the former manager of Sunderland Empire after he had a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old schoolboy.

Paul Ryan was yesterday jailed for two years after he pleaded guilty to a string of sexual offences with a teenager over a five-month period.

His 14-year-old victim had attended a Summer Camp in 2006 at the popular theatre on High Street West, in Sunderland city centre, where Ryan was general manager.

But it was a chance-meeting 12 months later in a Wearside nightclub that sparked their relationship.

In the months that followed, Ryan began sending the youngster seedy internet messages and in return he received six images of the naked schoolboy.

He invited the teenager, who is known only as NP, to come and have sex with other men.

But it was only when Ryan sent one of the photos to a friend where he bragged of his teenage boyfriend that detectives from Scotland began their investigations.

They were conducting a covert operation to smash a separate paedophile ring when they stumbled on the messages. Ryan’s computers were seized and his MSN chat message logs were analysed for the offensive data. At Newcastle Crown Court yesterday, Ryan was told he must serve two years in prison and will have to sign the sex offenders’ register. Sentencing him, Judge Tony Lancaster said: “In continuing the sexual relationship with this boy you ignored his obvious vulnerability.”

Ryan, who was described in court as “intelligent, well-educated and a talented professional”, was sacked from his theatre job in January this year when the affair came to light.

The court yesterday accepted that he had not used the boy’s initial visit to the Sunderland Empire in 2006 to “groom” the youngster.

Prosecutor Neil Pallister said: “The offences came to light as police in Scotland were monitoring the activity of sexual offenders. They became aware that this defendant had distributed a photograph of the boy. His computers were take away and six images were discovered of the teenager. Five of these were at level one on the rating scale.”

When he was initially arrested, Ryan claimed he thought his victim was 18 but later confessed he knew the teenager’s real age. James Adkin, defending, said: “There does not appear to be period of grooming, they met by chance. There doesn’t appear to be, in this case, any corruption.

“The MSN messages were graphic but demonstrate the complainant was willing to undergo sexual exchanges from the outset.

“Equally the complainant was sexually active before he met the defendant and he had his sexual orientation before he met the defendant. This is not a case where the victim has suffered any long-term affects.”

Ryan, from Park Hall, Sunderland, pleaded guilty to taking part in sexual activity with a 14-year-old boy on four separate occasions for which he was given a two-year prison term.

He was also sentenced to nine months after pleading guilty to five further offences of making indecent photos of a child, and was told to serve 14 days for causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity. All sentences will run concurrently.

The court was told all of the offences happened between March 1 and August 22 in 2007 while Ryan was still employed at the Wearside theatre.