Paedophiles spared jail because of their age

A steward at Windsor Castle was given a suspended prison sentence today for grooming and abusing a young boy 25 years ago.

Ross Thomas, 76, from Nixey Close, Slough, Berkshire, pleaded guilty to gross indecency with a child and indecent assault at Portsmouth Crown Court.

His co-defendant, Leonard Bennett, 76, of Shaftesbury Road, Gosport, Hampshire, pleaded guilty to the same offences and a third charge of indecent assault.

They were sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment for each charge to run concurrently, suspended for two years.

Judge Ian Pearson ordered them to sign on the sex offenders' register for 10 years and disqualified them from working with children for life.

He also ordered them to pay £1,000 compensation to their victim.

The court heard that the offences dated back to an 18-month period between November 1984 and May 1986 when the victim was aged between 11 and 12.

Kerry Maylin, prosecuting, said that the victim was targeted by the two paedophiles after he joined a gun club in Gosport.

She described how he was abused in various places including public toilets and the foreshore in a local park.

She said that the abuse "affected his behaviour at school, it affected his perception of himself and he used coping mechanisms that got him in trouble at school and caused him difficulties for some considerable time".

Sentencing the pair, who Judge Pearson described as "Portsmouth's oldest paedophiles", he said: "What you did in relation to the victim was very serious.

"You did groom him and you did indecently assault him over the period of some months and exploited his vulnerability."

Judge Pearson added that he had suspended the prison terms because he considered the pair no longer to be a threat to children because of their old age.

The court heard that Thomas, who suffers from diabetes, had been invited to take up the position as a steward at Windsor Castle as he was a regular visitor following his retirement in 1997.

The court was also told that he would now have to leave the position because he has contact with children in the role.

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