June 2003

Woman jailed for sex assault on girl

A mother of three who stripped and fondled a 14-year-old girl has been jailed.

Helen Carter, 34, was sentenced to 18 months after pleading guilty to indecent assault on a minor.

Chichester Crown Court heard the victim’s mother had taken her to meet Carter and, knowing what was about to happen, went for a drink while the assault took place.

Carter and the girl, who is from Bognor, were introduced by Paul Jones, who is on the run from police in Thailand.

He had met her in an internet chatroom and spent nearly two years “grooming” her before setting up the sexual encounter at a guest house in Bognor in October 2001.

Alex Cranbrook, prosecuting, said: “The girl had been contacted on the internet in 2000 by a man called Paul Jones – a man who is known to police as being involved in paedophilia.

“He has since been in Thailand and has not been found.

“He indicated that he would like to make a porn film and asked if the girl was interested in taking part. He also asked if her mother was interested.

“Surprisingly, the answer was in the affirmative and the girl and her mother got involved.

“After some time it was indicated by Jones that he wanted the girl and her mother to be involved with someone else and that person was Mrs Carter.”

Carter, of Brynteg Road, Gorseinon, near Swansea, went to a guest house in Bognor, checked in and went up to a room with the girl.

“They sat down on the bed, undressed and began fondling each other’s breasts, the court heard.

The incident came to light last June when the girl made a complaint to a police officer giving a talk on community policing to her youth group.

Carter, who has no previous convictions, was questioned and immediately confessed to officers.

John Harwood-Stevenson, defending, said: “The primary villain appears to be this man Paul Jones.

“The initial complaint of the girl was that he had been working on her for about two years and the period of his working on her appears to have overlapped with his working on the defendant.

“This extraordinarily vulnerable woman was approached at a time of maximum vulnerability by an experienced sexual conman and led into a course of conduct which she now finds it almost impossible to imagine.”

Mr Harwood-Stevenson said Carter was taking a lot of medication at the time and the break-up of her marriage had damaged her psychologically.

Her children have been taken into voluntary care, the court heard.

But the judge, Recorder Paul Tain, said: “She is an adult who took her clothes off in some sort of room with a 14-year-old girl, knowing that she was a 14-year-old girl, and was prepared to take part in a variety of sexual contact.”

He told Carter: “There are few absolutes but one is our obligation to protect children, whether our own or someone else’s, and you fell down on that absolute in a way which is frankly incomprehensible.

“You allowed yourself to go to that room, book it, pay for it, and with a 14-year-old girl got undressed and got involved in sexual activity.

“It’s quite clear you allowed yourself to do what you did for money — that’s clear throughout – and it’s probable that you allowed yourself to do it for money because you had yourself become a vulnerable person.

“But in no sense am I prepared to diminish your role.

“I acknowledge that the girl concerned had been brought to the events by her mother, which is overwhelmingly appalling in its own right.

“I’m prepared to concede that the girl was a knowing participant but it is a horrible case and one that it’s really difficult to understand.”

Carter was ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register and banned from working with children.