Vulnerable man 'who couldn't cope in prison' spared jail

ipswich crown court

Mark Watling, of Leiston, was sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court - Picture: Charlotte Bond - Credit: Charlotte Bond

A 26-year-old Suffolk man with “ significant” learning difficulties who raped and sexually assaulted a schoolboy has been spared an immediate jail term by a judge who said she feared he wouldn’t cope in prison.

Sentencing Alexander Harvey at Ipswich Crown Court to a three year community order during which he will have to attend an intensive sex offenders’ programme designed to stop him reoffending, Judge Emma Peters said the sentencing exercise had been “incredibly difficult.”

“I’ve never contemplated anything other than sending someone to prison for a very long time for the offences you’ve committed,” said the judge.

Judge Peters said Harvey had physical as well as mental disabilities and had a very low IQ.

“I accept you are someone who is very different from the normal people who sit in the dock in front of me,” she said.

She said Harvey was vulnerable and she feared he would be exploited in prison and wouldn’t be able to cope.

“What you have done is very bad,” she told Harvey.

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Harvey, of Wangford, near Beccles, admitted oral rape, three offences of sexual assault on a child and causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity in 2019.

He was given a three year community order during which he will have to attend a “New Me Strengths” programme.

He was also given an 80 day rehabilitation activity requirement and was made the subject of an indefinite sexual harm prevention order.

He was also ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register for five years.

Danielle O’Donovan for Harvey said her client had no previous convictions and had expressed remorse for what he’d done.

She said the judge had to make the “extremely difficult decision” of either sending Harvey to prison for a considerable length of time or taking the “extraordinary route” of passing a community order.

She said it was important that Harvey received the help he needed to stop him reoffending, and a new intensive programme designed for men with similar problems to Harvey was not available in prison.

She said the “New Me Strengths” course was designed to ensure the defendant didn’t reoffend.

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