December 2009

Victim told sexual assault was a game

A PAEDOPHILE has been jailed after admitting to a campaign of sexual abuse that formed a child’s earliest memory and lasted until she was 11.

Charles Barber was yesterday sentenced to four years concurrent for each of four specimen charges of abuse dating from 1977 to August 1985.

Changes to the law, in September 1985, meant the offences committed before that time carried a maximum of five years in prison instead of ten.

Judge Christopher Prince, sitting at Durham Crown Court, warned that but for the timing, the pensioner could have expected longer jail terms.

Earlier in the proceedings, Dan Cordey, prosecuting, told how the routine abuse began in the child’s home in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.

Mr Cordey said: “Her first memory is of the defendant sitting her on the sofa. She remembers she had won a competition and she was wearing an Easter bonnet.”

Mr Cordey described the assault that soon became an almost weekly routine adding: “Afterwards he told her that it was a game and that her mum would die if she found out she had played.”

When she was 13 the victim told her parents and Barber, 65, of Swan Street, Darlington, was referred to a psychiatrist, but police were not involved.

In August 2007, the victim complained to police and Barber was charged, but a trial failed to reach a verdict.

He was retried and found guilty in October last year, but unusually, he was considered to have too low an IQ to enter a plea or give evidence.

After a year on remand, in prison and in hospital, Barber was reassessed and found to be fit and he admitted three charges of indecent assault and one of indecency with a child.

Further offences alleged to have taken place in Newton Aycliffe and Crook, County Durham, in 2007, have been left on file.

Mr Cordey said the decision was taken to avoid the victims having to give evidence. He said: “It does not imply in any way that what they were saying is anything but the truth.”

Sam Faulks, mitigating, disputed suggestions that Barber could have been playing the system throughout the lengthy proceedings.

He told how Barber, who is frail, walks with a stick and has hearing difficulties, was attacked with a pool cue in Holme House prison.

“It is not the case that Mr Barber is some kind of Moriarty figure, some kind of criminal mastermind who was able to flit and skip between fitness to plea,” said Mr Faulks.

“He got the same IQ score, within two points (57 and 59), between tests 15 years apart, which would be a feat for anyone to deliberately achieve.”