Extra jail for paedophile returned from Crete

Lucy Bogustawski,Press Association
Sunday 23 October 2011 06:00

A paedophile who fled to Crete before his trial for child sex offences was told today that he would serve nearly seven years in jail.

Stephen Burnell, 56, was tried and convicted in his absence at York Crown Court after he absconded to the Greek island in 2007.

He was returned to the UK last night and today pleaded guilty at the same court to failing to answer bail to stand trial.

Burnell was originally sentenced to six years in prison after he was found guilty of attempted rape, indecent assault, indecency with a child and taking indecent photographs of a child.

Recorder of York Judge Stephen Ashurst today sentenced him to an additional 11 months for the failure to answer bail and told the defendant the sentences would be served consecutively.

The court heard Burnell had previously been sentenced to seven days in custody after failing to attend at his plea and case management hearing in December 2006.

He was granted conditional bail following his release.

Helen Hendry, defending, told York Crown Court that Burnell decided to leave the country shortly before his trial in February 2007 "because of the enormous stress and pressure he felt under in the run up to the trial".

Ms Hendry said the defendant first travelled from Liverpool to Amsterdam before flying to Greece, where he lived in Crete and worked at a taverna.

The barrister said he was arrested on the island earlier this month following a "dispute".

He was subsequently arrested at Athens airport last night and returned to the UK by North Yorkshire Police's Protecting Vulnerable Persons Unit.

Sentencing Burnell, Judge Ashurst said this was a "bad case of its type".

He told the defendant: "You failed to attend because you feared the consequences and you did so in the knowledge that (the victim) was telling the truth and her allegations would be proved in court. That was your decision."

The judge continued: "The court has given you every opportunity to attend at your trial and deal with the consequences of the allegations made against you.

"You chose to ignore that and go your own way."

Burnell, who appeared in the dock with a tanned complexion, a beard and shoulder-length, wavy, blonde hair, asked the judge if he could speak before being taken to the cells.

Judge Ashurst refused his request.

Burnell, originally from Scunthorpe, north Lincolnshire, was found guilty of 11 counts at the trial in 2007.

The charges related to sexual offences carried out against a young girl between the ages of nine and 12 years old.