January 2021

Sex offender jailed over Center Parcs trip sent home by judge before even seeing a cell

A sex offender was handed a jail sentence but didn’t even see the inside of a cell before a judge bailed him

Gareth Edwards was today handed a 16 week sentence after he went to Center Parcs with a woman he was seeing and her three children.

The 30-year-old had also stayed over at the woman’s home on weekends without telling her he was a convicted sex offender, breaching his notification requirements.

But after a district judge handed him a jail term on Monday at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court, unrepresented Edwards was immediately released on bail pending an appeal against the conviction.

Edwards, of St Monica’s Drive, Netherton, was previously sentenced for inciting a female under 16 to engage in sexual activity.

He was convicted of the offence in 2016 and handed a 16-week sentence suspended for two years and ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register for seven years.

He appeared in court on Monday for breaching the notification requirements on two counts after he met a woman online.

Olivia Brady, prosecuting, said Edwards told officers he had met the woman and stayed with her on weekends and during Christmas in 2019.

Ms Brady confirmed that he had “never been alone with the children” but had holidayed with the family and her parents at Center Parcs.

The court heard the woman “wasn’t aware of the defendant’s previous convictions”.

District Judge Paul Healey confirmed that the first contact between the couple was in February 2019 through online dating.

When asked why he was not represented by a solicitor Edwards said he was unable to afford one.

Edwards was then given time to consider instructing a solicitor and asked to leave the dock, but when he returned confirmed that he wanted to continue with the sentencing unrepresented.

The sex offender was charged with breaching the notification requirements by staying at an address for more than 12 hours with a child and by residing at an address for more than seven days in a 12 month period without registering at a police station.

When asked about the offences Edwards said: “The second bit of the offences I wasn’t aware that it accumulated – I did tell someone that.

“I went through a turbulent relationship and had a window put through.”

Edwards explained to the judge that when he did tell the woman he was seeing about his previous conviction they continued to see each other and informed social services.

He said: “When I did tell her we sat down and talked about it and she said ‘OK what happens now’?”

Edwards also told the court that he fully complied with the suspended sentence and admitted both breaches of the notification at the earliest opportunity.

When asked why he didn’t tell the woman about his conviction Edwards said: “I was getting blackmailed from an ex partner, I was in a turbulent state.

“I’ve done wrong, I understand that.”

The judge told Edwards: “I’m sure you appreciate why the notification requirements are put in place in order to protect people.

“If you start a new relationship they have got a right to be aware.”

When asked why it took him a year to tell the woman, Edwards claimed he didn’t see the woman that often.

Edwards told the court he worked full time and helps build hospitals, including new Nightingale hospitals, and urged the judge to suspend the sentence.

Sentencing, District Judge Healey explained the suspended sentence ended in 2018 but noted that the notification requirements for the Sex Offenders Register are not due to end until 2023.