Paedophile’s Sentence A ‘Betrayal’

A children’s charity yesterday slammed a two-year jail sentence handed to a paedophile who groomed a 14-year-old girl over the internet. Old enough to be his victim’s grandfather, 54-year-old Gary Scutchings posed as a girl called Sophie to win her confidence before admitting he was a man and persuading her to send topless photos.

He then travelled 200 miles to meet his victim, threatening to post pictures of the teenager in her home town if she didn’t agree to the rendezvous. Father-of-two Scutchings, who drove motor homes for Formula One drivers, will be eligible for release within months after spending 158 days remanded in custody.

Yesterday, Claude Knights, of children’s charity Kidscape, called the sentence a ‘betrayal’. “This kind of sentence isn’t a deterrent and that’s always a worry because we have so much copycat behaviour,” she said. “It sends out the wrong message.”

Caernarfon Crown Court heard Scutchings began exchanging e-mails with the girl after she posted a personal profile in a chatroom. When he came clean and said he was male, she assumed he was 18 or 19 and they exchanged mobile phone numbers. Eventually Scutchings told her he was 45.

Prosecutor Richard Edwards said the youngster agreed to meet him because she was scared. “After the defendant revealed his age, he sent some text messages to the victim saying he wanted to make love to her,” Mr Edwards said. Her thoughts were if she met up with him once she wouldn’t have to do so again.”

He journeyed from his home in Leyton, London, to Llandudno where they went shopping. He bought the girl a school bag, mobile phone vouchers, a bracelet and sunglasses. They held hands and kissed and hugged.

Five days later, the girl’s mother discovered text messages on the youngster’s phone. She texted him to warn him off. But 13 days later, after not hearing from the girl, Scutchings again drove to North Wales to try to find her. He visited bus stops to see if she were among schoolchildren waiting for transport.

He also visited a school and asked children if they knew her. After being unsuccessful in locating the girl, he stayed overnight at a Llandudno hotel and then returned the following morning to try and spot her as buses left for school. But police arrested him.

Mr Edwards said in his car were women’s underwear, Viagra tablets, a bottle of champagne and a disc containing porn images. In a bag inside the vehicle were handcuffs, a rope and large knife. The defendant claimed he wore the underwear and the items in the bag were not for any sinister purpose. Eleven child porn images were found on his home computer.

Scutchings admitted meeting the girl after sexual grooming, sexual activity with a child, and seven offences of making indecent photographs of children. He claimed he was anxious for help and blamed his behaviour on his children growing up and his marriage drifting.

Mr Justice Ramsey disqualified him from working with children for life and banned him from using the internet or contacting the girl for 10 years. He must also be supervised by an adult when associating with children and register as a sex offender for 10 years.