October 2006

Internet pervert escapes jail term

A NURSERY teacher who led a secret double life as an internet pervert has been banned from working with children – but allowed to go free.

Gregory Speakman, 21, was arrested after 89 indecent images of youngsters were found on his computer.

It emerged he had also been accused of sexually assaulting two three-year-old girls in his care but the case against him collapsed because of contaminated evidence’.

The allegations relating to the girls were said to have occurred between September 2001 and January 2004 when Speakman, of Irlam Road, Flixton, was working at a south Trafford nursery.

At Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, Speakman appeared for sentencing after he admitted 12 charges of possessing and making indecent images of children.

A formal verdict of not guilty was recorded on charges of indecent assault at an earlier hearing after Speakman claimed thoughts may have been planted’ in the minds of the girls.

Speakman was sentenced to a three-year community order with a requirement to attend the Northumbria Sex Offenders Programme.

He was also banned from working with children under 18 in either paid or unpaid work, and ordered to sign the sex offenders register for five years.

During a trial the court heard how Speakman had been suspended from the nursery in 2003 following a complaint but was then reinstated.

But Nicola Gatto prosecuting said another investigation began after a girl of four claimed in January 2004 that her bottom had been touched during a game.

The girl was said to have claimed that a man called Greg’ had told her not to tell anyone about it and her parents reported the matter.

Speakman was suspended in January 2004 but initially the girl’s mum wasn’t keen on her child becoming part of the investigation because she was so young.

“She decided she wouldn’t assist because her daughter was upset and hoped it would fade from memory,” said Miss Gatto.

“But in March 2005 the girl brought up the matter again and her mother decided she should be interviewed by the police.

Another girl who left the nursery in 2003 was being driven past the premises the following year when her mother commented that she hadn’t gone back to visit. The girl said she didn’t want to – then later claimed she had been touched.

Miss Gatto added: “The girl’s mother was happy for her to be interviewed but she panicked and the interview didn’t take place.

“The girl then struggled to sleep and settle down. In January 2005 she and her mother were reading a book together, Victorian Avenue.

“There is a character in the book with distinctive red hair and we say it triggered a memory in her because this character looked like Mr Speakman.”

Both girls alleged that the incidents happened at lunch times when other children were watching a video and teachers were enjoying a meal.

Speakman told police he had no idea why the children made the claims unless thoughts had been planted in their mind’.

And Mr Andrew Long, defending, said the first girl made the accusations after hearing another youngster – not involved in the court case – had accused Speakman of touching her.

Mr Long said there was no medical evidence that the girls had been abused, they had not complained at the time and they showed no apparent distress.

One of the girls – now aged seven – gave evidence in the trial but was discharged and the alleged offences involving her dropped because Mr Long said she was suggestible’ and could be easily persuaded by the barrister In dismissing the indecent assault allegations, Judge Adrian Lyon said it was possible the girl’s mother had prompted her and possible the child’s evidence was contaminated by other children gossiping about Speakman.

Not allowing the little girl, who is now seven, to give evidence and dismissing the case, Judge Lyon, said: “There has been some contamination and a possibility of more.

“The evidence of this child has been contaminated by the information provided by the other children who formed part of this.

“There is no specific evidence that that happened but there is certainly room that it could have happened, it is a decided possibility.

“It would be impossible for the defendant to have a fair trial. There is no evidence, upon which a jury properly directed, could conclude the defendant was guilty.

“It is not a conclusion I have come to easily or without significant thought.”

In sentencing Speakman for the indecent images, the judge said: “I’m pleased to see that you have accepted fully your guilt in respect of this matter and you have asked for help and assistance.

“I have borne in mind the number of offences of this type I am dealing with and the number of images, and I have had regard to guideline cases.

“It is a demanding sentence that many people have difficulty completing. If you breach this order I am likely to think in terms of a custodial sentence.”