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UK: Grooming ring got off lightly

Publish Date: 17 Sep 2004

Source:The Guardian
By Martin Wainwright

Grooming ring got off lightly, says judge

Sentences condemned in case of boy, 14, sold into prostitution

A judge has condemned the "absurdly limited" jail terms he could impose for men involved in the sexual grooming of a 14-year-old boy who was sold to a national paedophile ring.

Mr Justice Holland called on the crown prosecution service to look at the issue. He said the maximum seven-year sentence for people living off the earnings of prostitutes was "quite absurd".

Two men were jailed for a total of 15 years for their part in the calculated, two-year transformation of the child into a prostitute who was abducted to "service" men across Britain.

Leeds crown court heard how the 14-year-old was regarded as a long-term investment - "the cutest yet" according to the prime mover, Nathan Eyre, 38, of Leeds - which was realised after months of plying him with money, drink, drugs and treats.

Eyre finally told him to pack some spare clothes and took him to a McDonald's in Bradford, where he was sold to the organiser of a national paedophile ring, Raymond Hawthorne, 40, of Manchester. He forced the child to work with three other teenagers as prostitutes at his home, and took him to clients in a "six day blur of sexual abuse".

He was rescued after police raided Eyre's home and found links to Hawthorne. Eyre was jailed for eight years and Hawthorne for seven on Tuesday, after Mr Justice Holland explained he had no power to extend the terms.

"It's really quite absurd. It's extraordinary that a judge is hamstrung in this way, to seven years, when it might be 10 or even life. These cases are rarely as serious as this, but this case demonstrates the seriousness of it at its extreme."

Mr Justice Holland sentenced Eyre to five years for living off immoral earnings because he had to take into account the guilty plea. He was also given three years for conspiring with Hawthorne to sell the boy.

Hawthorne admitted abduction, indecency with a child, conspiring to live off the earnings of a male prostitute and conspiring to commit indecent assaults.

The case could not be reported until the conviction, yes terday, of the only member of the ring to deny charges. Barry Carman, 56, of Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside, who texted a message to Hawthorne saying "when is he working", was found guilty of conspiracy to commit indecent assault and will be sentenced later.

Two "investors" were also sentenced for their involvement in "a system of breathtaking criminality". Leslie Loram, 50, of Rochdale - described as "one of Hawthorne's best customers" - was jailed for three and a half years after admitting two counts of buggery and one of indecent assault. David Riley, 56, of Eccles, pleaded guilty to indecent assault and was given a two and a half year sentence.

Another member of the ring, Eric Groves, 44, of Shifnal, Shropshire, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit indecent assault at a previous hearing and will be sentenced later.

At the hearing on Tuesday Mr Justice Holland also expressed frustration that the jail terms had to take into account the fact that the other men had pleaded guilty.

The court heard that in a series of pathetic statements to police the boy had said of his abuse: "It hurted." The judge said: "The mental and psychological scars may be with him for the rest of his life."

The teenager's parents said in a statement: "Part of our son's childhood has gone now. They took his innocence away. This this can happen to any family. But now these monsters are behind bars we can try and move on with our lives."

Detective Inspector Paul Jeffrey, of the Leeds child and public protection unit, said the ring had extended to Lancashire, Bedfordshire, Merseyside, Shropshire and Leicestershire, and probably elsewhere. The boy could not remember where else he had been taken and had been "threatened with death".

He said: "I remain stunned about how these people view children. They see nothing wrong with buying and selling them for sexual gratification."

In mitigation, the court was told that Eyre, Hawthorne and Loram had pleaded guilty and had no previous sexual convictions. Eyre gave police information linking the ring to Manchester while Loram thought that the boy was willing.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1306496,00.html

© 2004 The Guardian