June 2006

Paedophile jailed for 10 months

A PAEDOPHILE who could have been jailed for up to five years was sentenced to just 10 months for a string of sex assaults on a girl nearly 40 years ago.

Grandfather Robert Prout, now 54, of Rozel Court in Beck Row, collapsed in the dock as Judge Mary-Jane Mowat passed sentence and had to receive treatment from paramedics before he was taken away to prison.

Judge Mowat, recently named by the Lord Chancellor as one of many judges to have had lenient sentences overturned by the Court of Appeal, decided against imposing the maximum sentence and even considered giving Prout a suspended sentence or community service but rejected those options because of her own track record.

Prout, a former bus driver, had been found guilty of five counts of indecent assualt by a jury at Reading Crown Court. The offences happened in Berkshire.

Following the sentence, a friend of the victim said: “Her whole life has been ruined. Prout started assaulting her when she was only 11 years old and because of it she has had all sorts of problems in her life.

“He’s got away with this his whole life and now he will only be behind bars a few months and he’ll be able to carry on with his life.”

At his trial last month the jury heard he started inappropriately touching his victim and simulating sex with her when she was only 11. Most of the abuse happened in 1970 when she was 12 or 13 and the last indecent assault took place when she was 16.

The defendant himself was only in his late teens at the time but Judge Mowat heard that Prout did have previous convictions dating back to the 1960s for indecent assault and indecent exposure with intent to commit indecent assault.

Mr Christopher Wing, defending, said that if his client had been prosecuted at the time he could only have been jailed for a maximum of two years.

“Because of the nature of the offences it is likely he would not have been sentenced to more than two years in custody,” he said.

“There have been no like offences since. He has eight grandchildren, six of whom are female, and there has never been any problem.

“He is a much-loved father and grandfather. His family have been here to support him throughout. He was a very young man when these offences were committed. For the 30 years since he has led a blameless life.

“He has had a lot of contact with juvenile females since, with no problems.

“No-one else has come out of the woodwork to say ‘he did it to me’.”

“This is long behind him. He has shown he is not predatory in any way.”

Sentencing Prout Judge Mowat said that her cases had gone to the Court of Appeal in the past when she had tried to impose a suspended sentence.

“I have a record of trying to suspend sentences in cases like this and them ending up in the Court of Appeal,” she said.

“I find this an extraordinarily difficult case to sentence.

“To send a man to prison for something he did when he was 18 some might say was outrageous.

“But to leave it unreflected, others would say is outrageous.

“In view of the authority by the Court of Appeal and current views about sentences I feel obliged to pass an immediate custodial sentence.”

She added: “The effect of abuse on children is now very well understood and it does destroy lives.”