A Rugby pensioner who tried to persuade a 13-year-old boy to go to his home and to go on holiday with him was found to have searched for child pornography on his computer.
But despite having been questioned twice before over allegations of ‘inappropriate behaviour’, 82-year-old Brian Clarke’s age narrowly saved him from prison.
After initially denying the charges, he had changed his pleas at Warwick Crown Court to guilty on one charge of meeting a child following grooming and two of sexual activity with a child.
Clarke, of Beech Court, Hillmorton, who also admitted three charges of making indecent images of children, was sentenced to two years in prison suspended for two years.
Judge Sylvia de Bertodano ordered him to take part in a rehabilitation activity and to register as a sex offender for ten years, and made him subject to a sexual harm prevention order restricting his contact with children.
Prosecutor Amy Jackson said that after meeting a 13-year-old boy and his mother in 2015, Clarke told the boy he loved him and would like to be his dad.
He saw the boy on occasions after he finished school, and bought him gifts as part of a grooming process, during which he held the boy’s hand and held it on the boy’s thigh.
Clarke also kissed the boy on the lips and invited him to his home – but the youngster said he would have to ask his mother, who said no.
And he also spoke about getting a passport for the boy and taking him to Tenerife for a holiday.
“But before anything else happened, the police became involved, although it’s not clear how,” said Miss Jackson.
Officers went to speak to Clarke and seized his two laptops, on which they found 18 indecent images of children.
They were all stills, but included one category A image, the most serious category, and eight category B images.
Miss Jackson said internet searches carried out by Clarke were of concern, because they showed an interest in boys of the 13-year-old’s age, and included search terms such as ‘dads and young boys’.
When questioned, Clarke admitted kissing the boy and holding his hand, but denied there was anything sexual in it, and he denied deliberately looking at child pornography, saying he had looked for images of young men, but not of boys.
Miss Jackson pointed out that although Clarke had no previous convictions, he had been interviewed twice previously over ‘inappropriate behaviour’.
They had included one boy, also aged 13, alleging Clarke had kissed him – but there were no proceedings because the boy’s family did not want him to go through the court process.
Jonathan Veasey-Pugh, defending, said: “The period of the real-life charges was relatively short, about a month, and the images were also over a relatively brief period.”
And he commented that the sexual touching was ‘of a relatively low level’ of seriousness, and although he had denied any criminality, Clarke had accepted what he had done.
Mr Veasey-Pugh pointed out that Clarke did not accept there was anything between him and the boy involved in the previous allegation.
He said Clarke, who had served in the RAF, was a lonely man whose wife has died and whose one adult child lives abroad, while the other also lives some distance away.
And health-wise, although he has not been diagnosed with dementia or Parkinson’s, ‘there are concerns’.
Sentencing Clarke, Judge de Bertodano told him: “You are here because you made friends with a 13-year-old boy. He was vulnerable because of his age.
“While I accept this did not go very far, that was the greatest good fortune for him, and for you, because there were indications that you did intend to take it further.”
Telling Clarke the offences warranted a sentence of two years, she added: “That is a sentence I can suspend, just, which I do principally because of your age and medical condition.”