August 2004

PERVERT IS JAILED

A PERVERT who repeatedly molested three young girls is today beginning a five-year jail sentence.

Robert James, 53, of Heaton Gardens, South Shields, groped and exposed himself to his victims, one of who was only seven.

James, who denied nine counts of indecent assault and three of gross indecency with a child, was found guilty yesterday by a jury after five hours’ deliberation.

He told Newcastle Crown Court the abuse simply never happened, but after a week-long trial the jury chose to believe the three brave young girls who testified against him.

Prosecutor Alec Burns said James assaulted two girls who were aged between nine and 10 and a third who was seven or eight between January 1, 2003, and February 6 this year.

Most of the incidents took place at a house in Washington, where James did indecent things “on numerous occasions”.

When he was alone with the girls he would expose himself to them, grope them and force them to touch him.

One of the older girls was indecently assaulted in James’s van, and was subjected to an act of gross indecency during a game of hide and seek in a walk-in bathroom cupboard at a house he had renovated.

Judge John Milford told James: “You seized opportunities when the coast was clear to indecently assault those girls in a variety of different ways.

“These offences were a gross breach of trust and I am satisfied no sentence other than a custodial sentence can be justified.”

James, a self-employed paint sprayer and property developer, will be registered as a sex offender for life.

After the verdicts, it emerged James was facing similar abuse charges dating back more than 20 years, but lawyers said it would no longer be in the public interest to pursue them.