November 2001

Man had sex with 14-year-old girl in shop

A 31-YEAR-OLD man who admitting having sex with a 14-year-old girl in the back room of his father’s shop was given a suspended prison sentence yesterday.

Andrew Bell, of Anson Walk, Coundon, received a nine months sentence suspended for two years, when he appeared at Teesside Crown Court.

The father-of-one was also placed under a supervision order for two years and placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register for ten years.

Christopher Williamson, prosecuting, told the court the 14-year-old girl had been a visitor to the shop in Chilton, where Bell worked for his father.

He said the girl and Bell got to know one another and became friendly.

Bell was then aged 30, Mr Williamson said, and he and the girl had shared “two or three” kisses.

On June 1 this year, the girl went into the shop and Bell locked the door.

He led the girl into the back of the shop and had sex with her there, Mr Williamson said.

The teenager then left the shop and went home.

She made a complaint to the police six weeks later.

The court was told that when Bell was arrested he admitted to police that he had had intercourse with the girl.

He said he knew she was under 16 but did not realise she was as young as 14.

Bell told police he had only locked the door for privacy and that this was the only time the pair had sex, although the girl did visit the shop after the incident.

A not guilty verdict was formerly entered on a charge of rape which had been brought against Bell.

Jamie Hill, for Bell, said the girl had become infatuated with him.

He said witnesses had asserted that the teenager looked older than her years, around 17 or 18.

Mr Hill said Bell, who has no previous convictions, had given in to temptation after the girl made advances towards him.

Judge Anthony Briggs said Bell had committed a serious offence which normally warranted a prison sentence, but agreed to suspend the sentence in this case.

He said: “Girls of this age need protecting, sometimes from themselves.”