July 2007

Ex-councillor fails to overturn sex conviction

A FORMER councillor jailed for indecently touching an 11-year-old girl failed yesterday in a bid to overturn his conviction.

Fifty-six-year-old Harry Devine was branded a danger to young girls following his trial, at Durham Crown Court, in March 2005.

The court heard that Devine was found to have home videos of girls in swimming costumes, in which the camera zoomed in on their private parts.

He also faced unproven accusations of grooming two other underage girls while on bail for the attack on the 11-year-old.

Devine, who claimed at trial that his victim fabricated her story, was jailed for 22 months and made subject of a sexual offenders’ prevention order for five years.

He argued, at London’s Criminal Appeal Court yesterday, that evidence of “reprehensible behaviour, showing an abnormal attitude to the sexuality of young girls”, put to the jury, compromised the fairness of his trial.

The court heard that, following his arrest, police found the date-rape drug rohypnol and condoms in his car, while a collection of newspaper cuttings featuring young stars from TV soap Coronation Street, were recovered from his home, in Salters Lane, Wingate, County Durham.

Those facts, along with details of the allegations while on bail, one of which led to a trial and acquittal, were put before the jury as evidence of his “propensity to regard underage girls with an inappropriate attitude”.

Devine, a former independent councillor for Wingate on Easington District Council, claimed the judge should have given the jury a stronger warning when allowing them to hear this evidence.

But, dismissing the application for permission to appeal, Lady Justice Hallett, sitting with Mr Justice Silber and Mr Justice Wilkie, said it was difficult to see how any complaint could be made about the judge’s directions at trial.

“Given the fullness and fairness of the directions, it is unclear what more detail was required of the judge by way of directions,” said Lady Justice Hallett. “In our view, this ground is simply hopeless.

“The evidence was compelling. He got a fair trial, this conviction is not unsafe, and this application is dismissed.”

Devine, who has served his sentence, must continue to sign the sex offenders’ register for another eight years