A PARALYSED sex offender has been spared a five-year jail term after a judge said prison would not able to cope with him.
Quadriplegic Andrew Blair, 71, uses a motorised wheelchair that he steers with his tongue and needs assistance with daily life.
A trial heard an ‘unholy combination’ of a neglected six-year-old boy and Blair together led to the boy ‘mounting’ the side of the wheelchair in Blair’s bungalow, where an indecent act then took place.
Blair, of Benham Grove, Fareham, had denied sexual activity with a child but was convicted at a retrial of one charge — and cleared of 16 other counts.
Prosecutor Amanda Kelly said the boy told police of an automatic ‘magic door’ that led into Blair’s bungalow – and that Blair had races outside with the boy on a bike and him in his wheelchair.
The judge at Portsmouth Crown Court said on Sentencing Council guidelines the case merited a five-year jail sentence.
But addressing Blair, judge Roger Hetherington said: ‘I’m satisfied in highly exceptional circumstances that it would be contrary to the interests of justice to follow the guidelines.
‘And my reasons are firstly your history, as I’ve summarised it from the psychologist report and secondly your present circumstances which indeed are the circumstances throughout your life.
‘It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible in my judgement, to deal with you in prison given your condition.’
He added: ‘On the jury’s verdicts it’s a mystery as to how a child came to be in that position.
‘I’m not prepared to find that you deliberately cultivated him with a view toward doing something sexual toward him.
‘However, I’m satisfied that there was a significant disparity in age, it was over 50 years.’
Blair, who suffers from congenital cerebral palsy and epilepsy, was moved to a children’s home at the age of six following childhood abuse.
Judge Hetherington added: ‘This case is highly unusual and that’s because you are and have been since birth someone who has suffered from cerebral palsy and you have been in a wheelchair.
‘You operate your wheelchair using your tongue and you have very little other mobility.’
The judge added the young boy had been ‘neglected’ and spent time roaming the streets before ‘mounting’ Blair’s wheelchair. He told Blair the incident happened ‘in a way that’s hard to imagine, given your disability but undoubtedly occurred’, adding Blair told the boy not to tell anyone.
It happened in the early 2000s in West Sussex, the court heard.
Sarah Jones, mitigating, said: ‘This was an unholy combination of factors that led to a single instance occurring.’
Arguing to spare Blair jail, she added: ‘It’s clear that Mr Blair has the most basic of lives with the most basic of capabilities, and that existence has through the course of this trial hanged by a thread.’
Judge Hetherington sentenced Blair, who sat in his wheelchair in the public gallery in court, to a two-year sentence suspended for two years, with 12 months of supervision.
Blair must sign the sex offenders’ register for 10 years and a sexual harm prevention order limits his contact with children for 10 years.