Febuary 2004

Fury as child abuser walks free

A MOTHER who used a children’s “singalong” tape recorder to trap a man who abused her son spoke of her outrage after he walked free from court.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said she could still hear the harrowing recording of her 13-month-old child’s screams more than 12 months after he had been left in the care of Grant Aspden.

“The magistrates heard that same tape and I can’t believe they have dealt with that monster so lightly,” she said. “I still have nightmares about it and if there was any justice he would be behind bars. He should rot in hell for the rest of his life.”

During a previous hearing, magistrates said they were considering an immediate prison sentence but the proceedings had to be abandoned because of a legal technicality.

When proceedings began again, Aspden, 30, of Fielding Crescent, Blackburn, pleaded guilty at Blackburn magistrates to cruelty to a child. He was made subject to a community rehabilitation order for two years and ordered to pay £150 costs.

The court heard Aspden had pleaded guilty on the basis that he shouted abuse at the child and Michael Blacklidge, defending, said there was no history of cruelty through verbal abuse.

Phillip Potter, prosecuting, said that prior to the incident in January 2003 the mum had noticed that her child was reluctant to go near Aspden and didn’t want to be picked up by him.

He said she became so concerned about what might be happening she borrowed a children’s tape recorder off her sister and left it running when Aspden was baby-sitting.

“As a result of what she heard on that tape she reported the matter to the police and you will be able to listen and judge for yourselves what went on while she was out of the house,” said Mr Potter.

The magistrates listened to about 25 minutes of the tape during which the child could be heard crying and screaming. Aspden repeatedly shouted at the child and made animal-like grunting noises. Other noises were referred to in a transcript as “slapping noises”.

Mr Blacklidge said it had been accepted by the prosecution that Aspden had not physically harmed the child.

“These proceedings have been hanging over him for 12 months and, for the second time, he has had the humiliation of listening to the tape again,” said Mr Blacklidge. “He is thoroughly ashamed of his behaviour and accepts that any responsible adult would be appalled at the way he conducted himself.”

The mother said that despite his ordeal her son had developed into a normal, happy, healthy two-year-old who did not appear to have been left with any mental scars.

“He will never have to listen to that tape and hopefully it will never be one of his childhood memories,” she said. “I think it will haunt me for the rest of my life. If he had gone to prison I think I could have drawn a line under the incident and moved on but I feel as though it hasn’t ended.”