July 2009

Man spared prison after underage sex

A SUPERMARKET worker who had sex with two schoolgirls was allowed to walk free from court yesterday.

Jonathan Kent, 21, was given a suspended prison sentence even though his own barrister conceded he was likely to be jailed for his relationships with the teenagers.

Teesside’s most senior judge, Judge Peter Fox, spared Kent custody after being told the girls – aged 13 and 15 – were not virgins.

He told Kent, from the Barnard Castle area of County Durham: “The court has a duty, in so far as it is able, to protect even promiscuous young girls from themselves.

“That’s why – in principle – there must be a prison sentence in your case, but it is six months, suspended for two years, with supervision attached to that order.”

The judge refused a Sexual Offences Prevention Order, which would have banned Kent from certain activities, because the suggested terms were “too vague and impractical”.

Teesside Crown Court was told that Kent met the older girl when she was 12 and he was 16, and they went out several times before losing contact.

Last year, the girl saw him working in Morrisons, in Barnard Castle, got his mobile phone number from a friend and the pair started texting, before rekindling their relationship.

The girl refused to have sex initially, but after they shared a drink, she agreed to go with Kent to a secluded spot in the grounds of Teesdale School.

When she later discovered Kent was sleeping with the 13-year-old, the older girl threatened to report it to the police, and she was given £80 to keep quiet, the court heard.

A complaint was eventually made when she confided in a teacher that she had sex with a 20-year-old man.

Scott Smith, mitigating, said analysis of mobile phones and chat-room messages belonging to all three people showed that the girls “were not sexually inexperienced”.

Mr Smith said Kent paid the “blackmail” money because “he was in fear for what he had done”.

The barrister accepted that the girls were vulnerable because of their age, but described them as “streetwise”, and said Kent suffered from mental health problems.

Kent, of Stainton village, who quit his supermarket job anticipating a jail sentence, admitted two charges of sexual activity with a child at an earlier hearing.