Man (29) jailed after being found guilty of string of sexual offences against girl (12)
A reading man and ex-children’s nursery worker James Tough, 29, was told by a judge that the catalogue of sexual abuse he had inflicted has reduced a vulnerable schoolgirl to a state of despair.
“She was deeply traumatised by what you had done to her,” said Judge Peter Moss at Guildford Crown Court on Friday, November 6.
It was revealed that the victim and her sister were now living apart from their mum who had publicly sided with her daughter’s abuser and had described her own child in court as a “liar” and a “trouble-maker.”
“The victim is in foster care as a consequence of what you did. So is her sister,” Judge Moss told the defendant.
The Crown Court heard that Tough, formerly of Aysgarth, Bracknell, had had a history of paedophile allegations against him before he started abusing a 12-year-old girl whose mother he had befriended.
He was found guilty by a jury in September of assault by penetration, inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, two offences of sexual assault and one of taking an indecent photograph of a child.
The defendant, who was living at Landrake Crescent, Whitley Wood, Berks, at the time of the trial, denied all the offences.
During Friday’s sentencing, he spent a large part of the time in the dock with his face in his hands.
The Crown Court was told during Tough’s trial that the victim’s frantic friends had to call the police to help drag her from a river after she told them: “I can’t take any more.”
Tough was cleared by the jury of one charge of rape and another of sexual assault.
It was disclosed in court that the defendant was no stranger to allegations of child sex abuse.
Jurors heard that he had once been accused – but never prosecuted – of touching a young girl sexually at a children’s nursery where he once worked and on a separate occasion he was accused had French-kissed a young girl but had been acquitted of wrong-doing by another court.
It was during 2013 that Tough made friends with the mother of the 12-year-old school girl at the centre of the latest case.
He would travel from his Bracknell home to her house in Egham, Surrey, where he would sexually abuse the youngster.
The victim, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, told a police interview that she would cry all day long, saying: “It was horrible, basically. He made me feel worthless.”
In evidence to the Crown Court, the girl, now nearly 15, said she tried to drown herself in the River Thames at Staines in front of her school friends – a desperate act which led to Tough’s arrest.
A search by detectives found traces of the defendant’s semen in the girl’s bedroom.
It was also discovered that a photograph of her naked breasts had been taken on the defendant’s mobile phone.
Tough claimed at his trial that the girl had used her knowledge of past allegations against him to fabricate the abuse story.
Michael Harrison, defending, said his client still maintained his innocence of all the crimes. “He has done a considerable amount of good in his life,” he said.
Mr Harrison handed up a batch of references from family members and former employers praising his excellent character.
“There is reference to his charity work raising money for children,” he said.
Mr Harrison said the schoolgirl complainant’s mum was in court to support his client.
“She is standing by him,” he said.
He added: “My client has the support of a loving family.”
Passing sentence on Tough, Judge Moss said that previous problems had already rendered the girl a vulnerable person – a condition exploited by the defendant.
“She was vulnerable and in a very dark place. You took advantage of that,” he said, addressing the defendant.
Judge Moss said: “The consequences of your offending were to drive her to despair.”
He made an order banning Tough from working with children, or having any unsupervised association with people under 18 for an “indefinite period.”
Detective Inspector Paddy Mayers from the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team, who led the investigation, said: “James Tough is a predatory sexual offender who groomed and assaulted a 12-year-old girl over a lengthy period of time.
“The victim first reported the offences in October 2013 and has shown extreme courage in coming forward and helping to ensure that he was brought to justice.
“Tough committed these offences after gaining the trust of the victim’s mother and took full advantage of that trust for his own gratification.”
DI Mayers added: “Surrey Police treats all allegations of sexual abuse extremely seriously and I would encourage anyone who feels they have been a victim to report such incidents.”