Sentencing of Rugby man for downloading child abuse images delayed after prison van broke down on motorway

Leamington Justice Centre, home to Warwick Crown Court
Leamington Justice Centre, home to Warwick Crown Court

A Rugby man who is serving a nine-year sentence for the kidnap and sexual assault of a young girl 17 years ago has been back in court – for downloading child abuse images.

Arnold Baxter had been due to be sentenced at Warwick Crown Court after pleading guilty to three charges of making indecent images of children.

The charges follow the discovered of thousands of images on devices seized by the police when Baxter (73) formerly of Bath Street, Rugby, was arrested in 2016.

The arrest was in connection with the kidnap and sexual assault of a six-year-old girl near Burton-on-Trent in March 2001.

Baxter had finally been linked to that incident after being stopped for drink-driving, as a result of which his fingerprints and a DNA sample were taken.

The DNA finally provided a match with that of a saliva sample taken from the coat of the little girl he had abducted, sexually abused, and abandoned.

And in February last year Baxter was jailed for nine years by a judge at Stafford Crown Court and ordered to register as a sex offender for life.

At the time of his arrest, his phone and computer had been seized by the police and were subsequently examined.

Thousands of sickening indecent images of children were found, including 699 classed as being in category A, the most serious category.

There were 1,712 category B images of children, and 5,907 category C images of children.

Baxter was due to be sentenced – but the prison van transporting him to Warwick Crown Court from HMP Ashfield near Bristol broke down on the motorway.

In his absence, Judge Sylvia de Bertodano observed that Baxter, who prosecutor Sharon Bahia said was assessed as posing a high risk to children in the future, but had claimed some of the imaged had been Photoshopped and were not indecent, had no legal representation.

Because of the sentencing implications of the assessment, which means he could be facing an extended sentence, the judge commented: “Unless he flatly refuses, he ought to be represented.”

She stood the case down for Baxter to be brought to the court to be sentenced on a later date.

But in fact the van transporting Baxter finally arrived at the court late in the day – after both Judge de Bertodano and Miss Bahia had left.

Judge Anthony Potter, the only judge still sitting at that time, told him: “Because there was a breakdown of the vehicle bringing you to court, everything was delayed.

“There is now no prosecuting counsel, and the judge who was to deal with you has already left.

“But reading the pre-sentence report, both I and the other judge were concerned, given your antecedents, that a type of sentence which is potentially indeterminate may be passed.

“The reason I’m raising that is that you don’t have anyone to represent you.”

Baxter responded from the dock: “The solicitor I asked for found out I was unlikely to get legal aid, and asked for money immediately.”

He explained that because of his assets, he would not qualify for legal aid, but his bank would not release funds to pay the solicitor without him attending the bank – which he could not do because he was in jail.

Of the images, Baxter claimed: “They were pictures I did, but they were not involving children.”

Judge Potter told him he could be facing an indeterminate sentence, and that he needed to decide, knowing that, whether he wanted to pay a solicitor or represent himself.

Baxter replied: “In view of what you’ve said, I think I need a solicitor.”

So the judge adjourned the case for him to arrange legal representation, and remanded him in custody.