October 2022

Christmas fundraiser jailed for sexually abusing child

A community centre cleaner, who raised thousands for charity, has been jailed for sexually abusing a child.

Peter Gibbons, from Exeter, worked at the Wonford Community and Learning Centre when the offences took place, Exeter Crown Court heard. Police arrested him when they found pictures of the naked child on his phone and drawers filled with children’s pants.

Gibbons is well-known in the community for the annual Christmas lights switch-on and charity fundraising

Some members of the public who were in court for the sentencing had to be told to be quiet during the hearing on Friday (October 7).

The court heard that Gibbons has been at the centre of a “great deal of vitriol within the community” since pleading guilty.

He admitted to six serious sexual offences against a child, including oral rape and making indecent images and was jailed for six years.

Exeter Crown Court was told Gibbins has a low IQ and “reduced cognitive functioning”.

Judge Peter Johnson said: “This was sexual abuse of a young boy by a man with significant intellectual difficulties.”

Prosecutor Mr Peter Coombe said the abuse came to light earlier this year when the child revealed what had been happening. The defendant had frightened the child into silence by saying there would be trouble if anyone found out.

When police went to Gibbins’ home they found him sobbing and saying sorry. In his drawers, they found sexual aids and bags of children’s pants.

 Judge Johnson said grooming was a feature of the case. He added that the defendant’s intellectual defects had to be taken into account when sentencing. Gibbins was also given credit for his guilty pleas.

He said the defendant was not dangerous within the legal meaning of the word but was an offender of particular concern and would have to serve a further 12 months on licence once he is released from jail.

He must serve at least half of the six-year sentence before the parole board considers whether it is safe to free him.

Gibbins, formerly from Exeter but lately of Cockington Lane in Torquay, was also given a Sexual Harm Prevention Order to restrict his contact with children in the future and must sign the sex offenders register.