Febuary 2003

Leniency for sex offender is condemned as ‘crazy’

A MAN who was convicted of child sex abuse walked free from court yesterday because doctors said that he could die if he was sent to jail.

Robert Barker, 64, of Redcar, might suffer a fatal heart attack from the stress of being sent to prison, said the judge.

The decision was last night described as “crazy” by The North of England Victims Association.

Barker was convicted by a jury of indecently assaulting a six-year-old girl in the 1970s.

Originally he was charged with rape and attempted rape.

The rape charge was not proceeded with, and he was found not guilty of attempted rape.

The judge, Recorder Martin Bethel, said that he had been given several medical reports indicating that Barker was in very poor health and suggesting that if he was subjected to the stress of a prison sentence the chances of him having a fatal heart attack would be increased.

Barker, who walks with a stick, had already suffered a heart attack, Teesside Crown Court was told.

He had two trials because the jury in the first could not agree on a verdict.

The judge told him: “I do regard your state of health as being an exceptional circumstance and, for that reason, I am going to suspend the sentence for a period of two years.”

Barker, of Easson Road, Redcar, was given a 15-month suspended jail sentence.

He was also ordered to register as a sex offender for ten years after being found guilty of a specimen charge of indecent assault between January 1977 and January 1980.

The maximum sentence at the time was five years which has since been “rightly” increased, said the judge.

David Hines, chairman of the North of England Victims Association and trustee of the national Victims Voice organisation, condemned the judge’s decision.

He said: “We’ve had decisions like this before and they are a sad indictment of our society.

“Why couldn’t he have been sent to a secure hospital? People who commit these kind of crimes don’t change. The only thing that might work is chemical castration.

“He’s on the sex offenders’ register but that is turning into a joke. It is simply ignored by those on it, who go where they please.

“I wonder if anybody in the court asked about the victim’s health in all this. Sex abuse victims are often scarred for life.

“This seems to be another crazy decision by the judiciary.”