August 2010

Pensioner jailed for abusing girl

A PENSIONER grieving after the death of his wife sexually abused a young girl he was babysitting.

Neil Harwood, aged 73, wept yesterday as Bolton Crown Court was told how he had sexually abused the girl when she was 12 and 13 years old.

He was jailed for five years by Judge Steven Everett who told Harwood he posed an ongoing risk to young children.

“You groomed this little girl and slowly, but surely, the seriousness of what you did became more serious,” he added.

Peter Cave, prosecuting, told the court Harwood’s wife died suddenly from cancer in January, 2007, and Harwood moved to a caravan in Garstang, while also buying a flat in Spain.

The pensioner would regularly visit Bolton and was trusted to babysit a young girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

But over a period of 18 months he began sexually abusing her, the last time being at his caravan in August last year.

The girl kept the abuse secret, but in January this year she confided in schoolfriends. When her friend’s mother told the girl’s mother about her claims, the police were informed and Harwood arrested.

Harwood, of Sunnyside Caravan Park, Bilsborough, Garstang, admitted his crime when interviewed and in court pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual activity with a child.

Mr Cave said the young girl has been badly affected by the abuse.

“The word devastation is much over used, but it is apt in this case,” said Mr Cave.

David Morton, defending, said Harwood, who was of previous good character, had brought the abuse to a end himself when he realised how wrong his behaviour had been.

“He is utterly broken as an individual by his own behaviour. He was in a desperate state and looking for selfish sexual gratification.”.

Harwood will be placed on the sex offenders register for life.