March 2003

Father battles against sex menace

A distraught father has accused police of failing to protect his 14-year-old daughter from a convicted sex offender.

The father has contacted the police 137 times and been to court 15 times in a bid to keep the man at bay, but he is still free and seeing his daughter.

The man, Richard John Barden, 34, has admitted having unlawful sex. But because the girl herself will not make a complaint, police cannot prosecute.

Instead, Barden, of Wyckham Lane, Steyning, was cautioned for unlawful sex and put on the sex offenders’register for ten years.

The predicament echoes a similar case last year when another couple appealed to Lewes MP Norman Baker after they discovered their 12-year-old daughter was having a relationship with a 22-year-old man.

In the latest case, the girl’s father alerted Sussex Police and West Sussex Social Services when he realised his daughter was having a sexual relationship with the married odd-job man three years ago.

Now the father, who cannot be named to protect his daughter, is demanding a change in the law.

He said: “I am furious about the lack of police action and the complete incompetence of social services. For three years I have battled on my own. This paedophile is still free and able to harm other children and it is costing the taxpayer thousands.”

Police say they can only take action if the girl herself makes a complaint.

Although they are powerless to act against Barden, they have twice cautioned the girl’s father for attempting to cause a breach of the peace.

The 41-year-old from West Sussex, is now attempting to claim back the £8,000 he has spent trying to get the case to court.

The man believes his daughter, who is now 17, started seeing Barden in April 2000 although he did not find out about their affair until July 2000. Even after being cautioned by police, the man continued to see his daughter.

In December 2000, in a desperate bid to try and protect his daughter, the father applied to have her made a ward of court and got a High Court injunction preventing Barden from contacting her. But still he continued to see her.

The father has since been to court another 14 times to try to have the man jailed for flouting the order.

In April 2001, after being alerted by the father, police found the pair together and took the girl into protective custody. In July 2001, the High Court jailed Barden for seven months for breaching the injunction.

In August he was given a further 12 months at Hove Crown Court for indecently assaulting another 15-year-old girl.

He was released in early 2002 and began seeing the daughter again and, the father believes, other girls.

In January this year, Barden was back in court charged with threatening to harm witnesses. He was bound over in the sum of £500 to keep the peace for a year.

The father said: “I think I have done everything I can. I have managed to put him in prison but it was for a breach of an order, not for having underage sex with my daughter. And all the time I’ve been battling, I have had the police on the phone asking me what I think I’m doing. They say they can’t help me.

“The words that keep coming up are ‘significant harm’. But I have never been given the chance to prove she is at risk from significant harm.”

The injunction to ‘protect’ his daughter runs until she is 18 in May. But the father says the court order is and always has been worthless.

He said: “All I want is to get this man off the streets and protect other girls. I’ve already spent £8,000 – moneyI don’t have. If social services had not been such an incompetent shambles, this would not have happened”.

The man said his relationship with his daughter had disintegrated to ‘non-existent’. She has been to court herself to try and be released from being a ward of court.

The father said: “She was told by the judge, in his opinion the man was dangerous. But she won’t listen.”

The father is divorced from the girl’s mother and, although she initially supported him, she has now resigned herself to the situation.

He said: “All I’m interested in is putting pressure on the authorities to get the law changed.