December 2006

Man, 48, sent to jail for abusing two girls

FORMER Salisbury College student support and welfare officer Gary Richards has been jailed for two years by a judge at Salisbury Crown Court for sexually abusing two 14-year-old girls

Richards, 48, a high-ranking official with the Wiltshire Football Association and involved in running soccer tournaments for boys and girls, had admitted seven counts of sexual activity with the two teenage girls, including intercourse with one on one occasion.

Richards, of Bingham Road, Salisbury, also admitted possessing indecent images of children.

The court heard how Richards’ daughter had discovered an image of one of the 14-year-old girls, who she knew, on her father’s mobile phone, and had alerted her mother.

When confronted, Richards admitted what he had done and made “frank and full confessions” to the police when he was arrested in May of this year.

Prosecutor, James Newton-Price, said neither of the two girls attended Salisbury College, where Richards had been working teaching employment skills and as a student support and welfare officer. He added Richards knew one of the girls’ mother, who also worked at the college and, on one occasion, he had e-mailed the woman on a work-related issue and the e-mail had been picked up by her daughter.

From this initial contact, Richards and the teenage girl began e-mailing each other, moving on to chat room messages and then Richards asking the girl for photographs of herself, including naked images.

Mr Newton-Price said: “She sent him ten images on her mobile phone and after telling her she was beautiful and sexy, he started sending her messages asking for them to meet up.” The court heard after meeting and engaging in some sexual activity, Richards asked her about her friends and was later introduced to the second 14-year-old girl.

There were several meetings between the three of them at various locations and, on one occasion, Richards had sex with one of the girls while the other watched.

Mr Newton-Price said when Richards was arrested, police found indecent images of young girls – level one images – on Richards’ computer. Peter Henry, defending, told the court Richards had made a full confession to police even before they had interviewed both girls.

Mr Henry added: “He has shown remorse and talks of his relief at confessing to these matters. He says he wants professional help.

“There was consent in these cases despite the ages of the two girls, neither of whom were sexually nave. The chat room talk was two-way traffic.”

But Deputy Circuit Judge Pryor QC told Richards he had a duty to impose a custodial sentence.

The judge added: “These were young girls and, whatever is said about the part they played, they are of an age when they require protection, not the opposite.

“You were not in a position of trust towards them but the sexual activities involved, and length of the period they took place, requires a custodial sentence.”

The judge sentenced Richards to two years in prison concurrent on all seven charges of sexual abuse, but no further penalty on the charge of possessing indecent images. He also disqualified Richards for an indefinite period from working with children, and placed him on the sex offenders register for ten years