October 2008

Fury over woman’s child sex sentence

CHILD protection officials last night condemned the sentence given to a housewife who had sex with a 14-year-old boy.

Stockton mother-of-two Sharon Edwards was spared jail yesterday, even though her barrister conceded she faced several years behind bars for her crimes.

The 40-year-old was given a suspended prison sentence with probation service supervision after a judge ruled that the “mature” schoolboy had seduced her.

Officials from charities the NSPCC and the Lucy Faithfull Foundation branded as “unacceptable” the remarks by Teesside’s most senior judge, Peter Fox.

Diana Sutton, head of policy at the NSPCC, told The Northern Echo last night: “It is unacceptable to describe the child victim in this case as the seducer.

“This gives out completely the wrong message – that sex abuse is the fault of the child, when in reality, it never is.”

Donald Findlater, director of research and development with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, said: “It is highly likely that in the exact same circumstances, a male child sexual offender committing such acts with a female would anticipate an immediate prison sentence.”

The judge accepted that Edwards had been unhappy in her marriage and was flattered by the attention from the schoolboy, but told her: “Of course you have responsibilities as an adult to reject his advances.”

He said he could treat the case as exceptional and suspend the “inevitable” prison sentence, and also ordered Edwards to sign on the sex offenders’ register for five years.

Edwards, of Elton Grove, began the brief fling when a last-ditch attempt to save her marriage appeared to be failing, Teesside Crown Court was told.

She exchanged up to 50 text messages a day with the boy – who was said to have had a crush on her – until the scandal came to light when Edwards’ suspicious husband, Mark, set a trap.

He changed settings on her computer so chatroom messages she shared with the teenager would be saved, and went out for the evening, Tina Dempster, prosecuting, said.

The following day, Mr Edwards checked the computer and realised the affair he suspected she was having was illegal.

Edwards, who admitted four charges of sexual activity with a child and one of offering to supply class A drugs – cocaine – to the boy, was said to have been “a sad and lonely housewife”.

Her barrister, Deborah Sherwin, said: “She didn’t work, her parents had moved abroad and she was stuck at home. Her marriage was failing and she was unhappy.

“There are people who come before these courts who are wicked and others who are foolish.

“As far as Mrs Edwards is concerned, she very much falls into the latter category.”