A PAEDOPHILE who volunteered as a helper to teach children how to read before unzipping a boy’s trousers and touching his genitals has been spared jail.
University of Portsmouth student Louis Meireles, now 21 but 20 at the time of the offence in December 2017, groped a seven-year-old boy before swearing him to silence: ‘This is our secret.’
But despite the offence passing the custody threshold, the human physiology student, who was suspended from his studies, will serve his punishment in the community. He will now undertake a 36-month community order including 200 hours of unpaid work in the community following his sentence at Portsmouth Crown Court.
The court heard how the boy’s life had been ‘totally devastated’ after he was the victim of the indecent assault – with him suffering ‘nightmares’ and ‘closing up’ following the incident despite having counselling.
Prosecutor Martyn Booth told the court of the harrowing episode: ‘The defendant volunteered through the university to go into schools and help children with their reading. He was in a position of trust and was seen as a teacher by the boy, or at least someone in authority.
‘While sitting in the classroom the defendant told the boy to lean backwards and keep the book on his lap.’
Mr Booth said Meireles then undid his trousers and put his hand down his pants and touched his genitals.
Despite being worried he may get into trouble, the boy told his horrified mum – who dashed to the school and police.
After re-living the terror of the incident, the child told officers: ‘He undid my trousers and put his hand down my pants and then told me to keep it a secret. It only happened once. There were other children sat in the corner of the room when it happened.’
Following a police investigation it was revealed that Meireles, of Sheffield Road, Portsmouth, had sought help after confessing to the university’s wellbeing centre about his ‘paedophilic thoughts’.
Meireles, who admitted one charge of sexual assault with a child under 13, also attended help group ‘Stop’ in an attempt to overcome his sexual thirst for young boys.
Despite having no previous convictions, the court was told about an incident when Meireles was aged 18 while at college in London. ‘When a 13-year-old boy got on the bus the defendant touched him inappropriately on the leg and bottom,’ Mr Booth said.
‘For some reason it was dealt with by the school rather than the relevant authorities. Nonetheless, it shows the defendant had been in trouble before for matters of these themes in the past.’
The prosecutor, speaking on the impact of the offence, added: ‘This has had a huge and devastating impact on the whole family. They feel there was a complete lack of support from the school. The boy has shut down and has nightmares about the incident.
‘When the mum tries to speak to him about what happened he just cries hysterically and says he doesn’t want to talk about it. He has lost his identity and self confidence and has huge trust issues – as do his parents. It has had a huge impact on the family with him now home taught.’
Defending Caroline Bracken said Meireles had a ‘significant prospect of rehabilitation’ before urging the court to follow probation’s advice by treating him in the community. ‘Jail would only serve to punish him,’ she said.
Recorder Sarah Vaughan Jones QC agreed, before adding: ‘I do not want to minimise the offence but I take the view that a community order is the best course to prevent reoffending.’
Meireles was also ordered to undertake a sex offenders’ program, complete 20 rehabilitation days and was also subject to a sexual harm prevention order.