A churchgoer was handed a suspended sentence for abusing a teenage member of the congregation in the 1970s.
David Jones, of Chester Road, Ellesmere Port, would give children attending a local church a lift home but always made sure his young female victim, who cannot be named, was the last to be dropped off.
Now aged 71, Jones took advantage of the teenager, who was aged between about 14 and 16 at the time, with the offending behaviour spanning about a year.
He pleaded guilty to three charges of indecent assault involving kissing on the mouth on at least three occasions, touching her breasts under her clothing at least three times and putting her hand into his trouser pocket.
Judge Simon Berkson, sitting at Chester Crown Court, handed down a sentence totalling 24 months but it was suspended after taking into account the defendant’s 69-year-old wife suffered a stroke in 2013 and Jones acted as her carer.
Jones, a retired IBM worker, must also sign the sex offenders’ register for 10 years and pay £500 towards prosecution costs.
Prosecutor Simon Parry said the defendant was aged 25-27 between 1972 and 1974 when he abused the victim, 11 years his junior, for his own ‘sexual gratification’.
The victim attended the church because her parents were members. She described Jones as ‘musical, charismatic, ‘Mr Cool’ and a big draw’ at the time.
Perceiving he initially didn’t like her, she tried ‘a bit harder to curry favour’, said the prosecutor.
Jones would give the children a lift home but always insisted she was the last to be dropped off and would take the back roads before stopping the car.
What started off as a kiss and a cuddle and flirtatious behaviour progressed to physical acts of a sexual nature.
She was made to feel special and desirable and ‘perhaps naively believed’ they had a special relationship together.
When the offending began, the defendant’s wife was pregnant with their first child.
The court heard the activity went as far as unlawful sexual intercourse but this could not be pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service because the relevant offence was ‘time-barred’.
Prosecutor Mr Parry talked about the impact on the victim over her lifetime.
The experience had changed her personality, her relationship with men and attitude towards sex, led to a lack of confidence and anxiety, caused a rift with her parents and had a detrimental impact on her career.
He said: “The complainant said she last saw the defendant at her father's funeral in 2007. She found it a difficult experience. She viewed at that stage people in the church and the defendant as somewhat hypocritical. She spent a number of years thinking what happened was her fault.
“She was approached by the defendant who told her he had met her teenage daughters and she felt horrified.”
She hadn’t wanted to make a complaint because of the repercussions for the defendant’s family.
But later she worried Jones might still be involved in working with children which prompted her to make an official complaint leading him to be interviewed by police in March, 2017, when he made no comment.
Nicholas Williams, defending, said Jones accepted full responsibility for what happened and appreciated at the time he was an adult. This was reflected in his guilty pleas.
Mr Williams stressed the acts were consensual. He claimed the complainant was infatuated with Jones at the time.
He was a man of previous good character who had made ‘a positive contribution to society and his community’ which included charitable work enabling disadvantaged children to take breaks in North Wales.
But Judge Berkson said Jones had ‘effectively groomed’ his victim and ‘preyed upon her vulnerability’ for his own sexual gratification. The experience had a ‘profound effect’ on his victim.
“While she lived with the secret of being a victim of your sexual abuse, it seems you lived a normal life. You remained involved with church groups and you are now a retired man,” he said.
“She didn’t know how to deal with other people. She felt very different to others and this has affected her life.”
He noted references from others who spoke ‘highly’ of him.
Accepting Jones had health issues, he said his wife’s condition was more serious and she required constant assistance from him.
Suspending the jail term, the judge said: “If I were to send you immediately to custody, she would suffer the suffering that she has not contributed to.”