January 2004

Alcoholic jailed for child abduction bid

A MIDDLE-aged alcoholic who tried to entice two young brothers into his “shabby” Accrington flat was today starting a six-months jail term.

Ex-convict Ernest Astin, 55, tried to smuggle one youngster in through the window of the property and asked the brothers, aged eight and five, if they wanted to read some books, Burnley Crown Court heard.

Sentencing, Judge Raymond Bennett said in this day and age, with so many allegations of child abuse, it was very difficult to resist fearing the worst.

He said the boys’ parents must have been very worried, as must other parents in the area, when they found out what happened.

The judge added that he was satisfied members of the public would think that in the present climate the defendant had been stupid and criminal and should have been aware of the risk he was taking. Others must be deterred from doing what he did, he said.

Astin, of Spruce Court, Woodside Road, Accrington, had earlier admitted attempted child abduction. He had no previous convictions for similar offences.

Joanna Rodrikis, prosecuting, told the court that last July the brothers, from the Huncoat area, were playing football and one of them accidentally kicked the ball on to a grassed area in front of a block of flats on Spruce Court.

He went to get the ball and noticed Astin at the window of one of the flats. The defendant invited the boys into the property, they refused and he then started to talk to them and tell them about his personal life.

Astin climbed out of the window, picked up the eight-year-old, put him on the window sill and then climbed back into the flat. The boy tried to jump from the sill but the defendant grabbed him by the neck, the court was told.

He then showed the youngsters two books and asked if they wanted to read them. They said no, the child jumped off the window sill and both boys ran home.

Miss Rodrikis said the children told their mother what had happened the next morning and she called police. Officers went to Astin’s flat which was dirty and sparsely furnished and which he accessed by climbing in and out of the window, the court heard.

The defendant told police he had been standing at the window, had got bored and had started talking to the victims. He accepted he did not know them but had invited them in. Astin denied holding the eight-year-old against his will.

Anthony Cross, defending, said such cases were extremely worrying and caused people to wonder what were the intentions of somebody who invited boys to their home. The defendant could not explain what he did.

Mr Cross said maybe the defendant’s alcoholism caused him to do something foolish and the best way to ensure no repetition of such behaviour would be for him to take advantage of the guidance the probation service could offer.