June 2010

BUSINESSMAN JAILED FOR SEXUAL OFFENCES

A HIGHLY successful and respected businessman who sexually abused two girls in Furness has been jailed for 20 months.

Keith Wood made inappropriate comments to two girls, in separate instances, before going on to carry out his offending. By his behaviour, a court was told that he had ruined the standing he had held in the community.

The businessman himself had put it into words when he said “life has stopped”.

The 56-year-old, formerly of Great Urswick, Ulverston, but now of School Lane, Congleton, was told by a judge at Preston Crown Court the offences were so serious that an immediate prison term had to follow. Wood, a co-founder of Barrow engineering firm, Agrilek, pleaded guilty to a total of 10 charges.

He admitted six offences of engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child, two of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and one of sexual activity with a child.

He had also pleaded guilty to a further charge of indecent assault involving another girl under 16.

The offences were carried out in the Furness area.

Mr Tim Brennand, prosecuting, told the court that Wood had said to one girl: “You are gorgeous” and enquired if she had a sex life.

He went on to sexually touch her.

Regarding the other girl, Wood had performed a sex act in her presence.

He asked her intimate questions and mouthed to her that she was “gorgeous” and “fit”.

He had also touched her.

The defendant was arrested on August 26 last year. He exercised his right of silence and made no comment responses to all questions put to him, added Mr Brennand.

The court was told that 38 years ago he had a previous conviction for indecent exposure.

Mr Roger Baldwin, defending, said “He has led a hard working life. He has gained the respect of the local community where he has lived.

“He has been a very successful businessman. All that, of course, now lies in ruins, as he put it to me ‘life has stopped’.

“It is clear he behaved in a grossly inappropriate way towards two girls. There are two victims and there was repeated offending in relation to one of them. The defendant appreciates the court will have very much in mind a custodial sentence.

“Since his detection and interview he has tried, in so far as he can, to ameliorate his situation.”

Mr Baldwin added that an immediate prison term might not allow time for a full sex-offenders programme to take place while the defendant would be in custody. The barrister asked the judge to consider making a three-year community order, with a sex-offenders treatment programme.

Mr Baldwin added “This is a man with whom valuable work can be done.

He is someone who presents a very low risk of re-offending.

“He accepts full responsibility for his offending”.

In the words of the defendant, he had said, “I totally acknowledge the harm I have done to so many people.”

Judge Anthony Russell QC told Wood in passing sentence “It is sad to see an intelligent and successful man such as yourself in the dock of this court, having pleaded guilty to these serious offences.

“They are offences that are too serious for a community sentence to be imposed in respect of them”.

Wood was banned from working with children and told he will be on the sex-offenders list for 10 years.

An order was also made for the recovery of £2,860 defence costs.