AN ASSISTANT verger at the historic St Mary’s Collegiate Church in Warwick fondled a vulnerable teenager he had met away from his church duties.
Eighty-year-old retired teacher Alan Baker pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to two charges of sexually assaulting the teenager, who the court heard was over 16 at the time.
Baker, of Buckley Road, Leamington, was sentenced to 12 months in jail suspended for two years, with an 8pm to 8am curfew for three months, and ordered to register as a sex offender for ten years.
Judge Andrew Lockhart QC also ordered Baker to do 100 hours of unpaid work.
Prosecutor Peter Cooper said Baker had met his victim when the youth was in his mid-teens, and befriended him and allowed him to visit his home.
On occasions he gave the boy alcohol, cigarettes and gifts, and sometimes took him along when he had cleaning duties at St Mary’s Church, where he was an assistant verger.
But twice when the youth visited his home last year, Baker sexually assaulted him.
And Mr Cooper said ton another occasion Baker had touched the teenager over his clothing.
The boy later confided in his behaviour specialist who then contacted his mother.
After Baker had tried to telephone the victim, the boy’s mother rang Baker who admitted to her what he had done and said he was bisexual.
Mr Cooper added: “In a second call she told him she had made an audio recording, which was not true, and that he had ten minutes to give himself up to the police or she would call them.
“He did so, and went to Leamington police station and said he wished to confess to a sexual offence.
Rebecca Wade, defending, said Baker, who ‘concedes his actions were nothing other than abhorrent,’ had not met the youth through the church, and there had been no grooming.
“He has expressed remorse to a number of people. He assures the court in very strong terms he will never behave in this way again.”
Miss Wade said Baker had been a primary and middle school teacher, with particular expertise in music and French, until his retirement, after which ‘he dedicated his life to the church’ as the music librarian, assistant verger and working with the choir.
Sentencing Baker, Judge Lockhart told him: “You are a man of 80 years of age, and you have led an exemplary life until these offences. But you committed two sexual assaults on a troubled young man.
“Matters came to light because his mother became concerned, and it is right to say that in a series of calls she confronted you and you made admissions, and you then did what was a sensible and honest thing in that you went to the police before any formal complaint had been made.
“I have come to the view I am just persuaded that I can suspend your sentence of imprisonment.”
Detective Sergeant Cawail Wong of Warwickshire Police said: “Baker has sexually abused a young person for his own gratification and these offences have had a considerable impact on the victim and his family.
“The bravery he has shown in coming forward to police must be commended and I would like to thank him for the courage he has shown.
“We hope such a result will help to reassure victims we will always investigate any allegations of sexual exploitation thoroughly and as a consequence bring offenders to justice.
“It can be difficult to recognise the warning signs of child sexual exploitation, but if you think something’s not right, please report it to police.
“The law is clear – no child under the age of 18 can ever consent to being abused or exploited.”