A former Ukip regional chairman has been jailed for almost five years for grooming children as young as 12 and possessing almost 200,000 indecent images of children.
Peter Entwistle, 52, called himself the ‘Naughty Doctor’ as he targeted pupils online using MSN Messenger and other social networks. The former chairman of the Bury branch of the UK Independence Party used an explicit picture of two women for his profile and spoke to a 13-year-old girl and a boy of 12, who he thought was girl, asking them to commit sexual acts for his own satisfaction.
Bolton Crown Court heard that Entwistle was able to help establish the Bury branch of Ukip in 2011 and become chairman despite having a criminal conviction for indecent exposure – he flashed a woman in the 1980s. Entwistle was jailed for four years and eight months on Monday after pleading guilty to 21 counts at an earlier hearing, including possessing and distributing indecent images of children as well as inciting and the attempted inciting of children to commit sexual acts.
Judge Elliot Knopf told Entwistle: “You are now 52 years old and you have, until these matters, led an exemplary life, which is attributed to by various letters I have received from people ranging from family, colleagues, the rector of churches and an MP.”
Iain Simkin, defending Entwistle, read out a letter written by former Conservative Foreign Minister Alistair Burt, explaining how the MP knew Entwistle's brother George for 40 years.
Mr Burt, who represented Bury North from 1983 to 1997 before he moved constituencies to become MP for North East Bedfordshire, condemned the “vile offences” and said “justice should be done”.
He told the Independent: “While condemning the vile offences, I think it is right to stand by the innocent family and friends I have known since I was at school, and help an offender get back on the right track.”
Entwistle is understood to have resigned as a party chairman in January 2013 after police raided his Bury home and found thousands of indecent images of children stored on a number of computers, USB sticks. Some of the images had been printed out. The former Ukip chairman was criticised last year for calling President Barack Obama a Muslim. He wrote on Twitter: “I bet he’s a closet ‘Imam’ as well! If I ever see him on a Greyhound bus wearing a rucksack, I’m getting off!!”
Entwistle will be placed on the sexual offenders register for life and will be subject to a sexual offences prevention order. The court was also told that Entwistle was seeking treatment from a psychiatrist for depression.
No one at Ukip head office was available for comment. A mobile contact number on Ukip Bury’s Facebook page, most recently updated this week, goes to a voicemail recording by Entwistle saying he is “unavailable”.
Ukip North West Chairman John Stanyer said he had never come across Mr Entwistle. He told the Independent: “Our voluntary members are not vetted, just like other political parties, so there would have been no way of finding out about this man’s past conviction unless he told someone. If people make us aware of incidents then we would suspend a member if necessary before conducting an investigation. We’ve 2-3 members who have been suspended at the moment – one person didn’t tell us he was a member of the BNP and another made sexist and nasty comments online so they’re facing disciplinary measures. We’re trying very hard to clear our house up.”
Meanwhile, Bury North MP David Nuttall has denied rumours he will be the next Tory defector to Ukip following Mark Reckless’ by-election victory in Rochester and Strood last week.
Mr Nuttall is chair of anti-EU group Better off Out and has spoken openly about his agreement with elements of Ukip policy on the UK’s membership of the European Union. Asked whether he would ever join Nigel Farage’s party, he said “you can never say never in politics” but added he wouldn’t rule out joining “Labour or the Greens” either.