Paedophile pair are spared jail sentence because of old age

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A PAIR of paedophile pensioners who abused a boy 25 years ago have been spared a jail sentence because of their age.

Leonard Bennett and Ross Thomas groomed the boy after he joined a Gosport gun club.

The men, who are now both 76, abused the youngster over an 18-month period between November 1984 and May 1986 when the child was aged 11 and 12.

It was years before the victim, who is know in his late 30s, went to the police after he broke down and told his girlfriend what had happened.

He was made to give evidence at Portsmouth Crown Court before the pair changed their pleas to guilty part way through the trial.

Yesterday he was at court in the hope of finally seeing his abusers locked up. Instead he saw them walk free.

Thomas, formerly of Knowle, near Fareham, but now living in Slough, is a steward at Windsor Castle.

He and Bennett, of Shaftesbury Road, Gosport, showered the boy with gifts of sweets and cigarettes, the court heard.

Kerry Maylin, prosecuting, said they would abuse him at various places including Gilkicker Point, in Gosport, public toilets and the foreshore in a local park.

She said that the abuse affected the victim’s behaviour at school.

‘It affected his perception of himself and he used coping mechanisms that got him in trouble at school and caused him difficulties for some considerable time,’ she said.

Thomas pleaded guilty to gross indecency with a child and indecent assault at Portsmouth Crown Court.

Bennett pleaded guilty to the same offences and a third charge of indecent assault.

They were sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment suspended for two years.

Judge Ian Pearson ordered them to sign on the sex offenders’ register for 10 years and disqualified them from working with children for life.

He also ordered them to pay £1,000 compensation to their victim.

Sentencing the pair, who Judge Pearson described as “Portsmouth’s oldest paedophiles”, he said: ‘What you did in relation to the victim was very serious.

‘You did groom him and you did indecently assault him over the period of some months and exploited his vulnerability.’

Judge Pearson added that he had suspended the prison terms because he considered the pair no longer to be a threat to children because of their old age.

The court heard that Thomas, who suffers from diabetes, had been invited to take up the position as a steward at Windsor Castle as he was a regular visitor following his retirement in 1997. He will have to leave the position because he has contact with children in the role.