May 2004

Sex offender walks free

A teenage sex offender who indecently assaulted two 12-year-old girls at a makeshift camp built on wasteland walked free from court today.

Craig Bland, 19, gave the youngsters cigarettes and alcohol and groped them at the lair which he had set up at a disused area near Coppergate House hostel in Hebburn where he was staying.

Newcastle Crown Court heard how Bland, who already had one previous conviction and a caution for sex offences, simulated sex with one of the girls and gave them both love bites.

Prosecutor Anne Richardson told the court how the children had met Bland, who suffers from attention defecit syndrome, while he was staying at the hostel.

Miss Richardson said Bland had asked the girls if they would have sex with him and promised he would not get them pregnant if they did.

Miss Richardson added: “He bought them both a bottle of wine and cigarettes and asked one of the girls to give him a love bite.

“This had taken place on a disused area near the hostel where the defendant had set up a camp.

“One of the gilrs said she did not like it when he began to touch her up but he said he wouldn’t do anything to hurt her.”

Bland was arrested and remanded in custody after one of the girls told her mother what had happened.

He admitted meeting the girls and said he knew one of them was attracted to him but he had only wanted to be friends with her.

And he admitted he had bought them cigarettes and alcohol which they had at the camp.

He told police he believed the girls were 15 and 16 and it was only afterwards he discovered they were just 12.

Bland admitted two charges of indecent assault when he was brought before the court last month.

The court heard how in June 2002 Bland was convicted of a sex attack on a seven year old boy and was given a supervision order for 18 months.

He has also been cautioned in the past for a serious sex offence with a teenage girl.

Judge David Hodson yesterday sentenced him to a community rehabilitation order for three years with the condition he must live where directed by the probation service, starting with one of their treatment centres.

As part of the order he must also take part in a one to one programme for sex offenders and address his behaviour through councilling.

Judge Hodson told him: “Normally, bearing in mind your previous convictions, which aggravate these very, very serious offences, the sentence of the court would be an inevitable sentence of custody.

“But you have been in custody for something just over six months, which is a least equivalent to a sentence these days of something of the order of 18 months.

“It therefore seems to me, in the light of all I have read in the pre-sentence report and the sex offender report, by far and away the most constructive way of dealing with your case and deal with your obvious problems you have with regard to sexual matters, is to make the order.”

Bland must now register as a sex offender for five years.

Judge Hodson said he would be asking for regular progress reports on Bland and warned he would be given a fresh prison sentence if he breached any part of the order.