Paedophile's sentence causes outrage

ONE of Britain's “soft sentence” judges caused outrage yesterday after jailing a paedophile for just 10 months for attacks which ruined his victim's life.

ONE of Britain's “soft sentence” judges caused outrage yesterday after jailing a paedophile for just 10 months for attacks which ruined his victim's life.

Judge Mary-Jane Mowat could have put 54-year-old Robert Prout, from Beck Row, near Mildenhalll, behind bars for up to five years.

However, after hearing that the former bus driver sexually assaulted a child when he himself was only 17 or 18 years old and has not offended since, she decided against imposing the maximum sentence.

The judge even considered giving Prout a suspended sentence or ordering him to complete community service - but rejected these options because of her own track record.

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Referring to criticism this week by the Lord Chancellor, she said: “I have a record of trying to suspend sentences in cases like this and them ending up in the Court of Appeal.”

A friend of the victim, who is now in her 30s, said after the hearing: “Prout started assaulting her when she was only 11years old and because of it, she has had all sorts of problems in her life. She's suffered from repeated bouts of depression. Her whole life has been ruined.

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“He's got away with this his whole life and now he will only be behind bars a few months and he'll be able to carry on with his life.”

Judge Mowat was named by the Lord Chancellor at the weekend as one of many to have had lenient sentences overturned by the Court of Appeal.

She handed a man a two-year suspended sentence after he was convicted of seven counts of indecent assault. This was later increased to 12 months immediate imprisonment.

However, she did refuse a request by Prout's defence barrister, Christopher Wing, to impose a suspended sentence.

Prout, of Rozel Court, Beck Row, was convicted of five charges of indecent assault last month. The offences happened in East Berkshire.

The jury heard that he started inappropriately touching the victim and “simulating sex” with her, when she was just 11 years old.

Most of the abuse happened in 1970 when she was 12 or 13 and the last indecent assault took place when she was 16.

However, Judge Mowat heard on Thursday that Prout had previous convictions dating back to the 1960s for indecent assault and indecent exposure with intent to commit indecent assault.

Mr Wing, defending, said that if his client had been prosecuted at the time he could only have been jailed for a maximum of two years. “There have been no like offences since. He has eight grandchildren, six of whom are female and there has never been any problem.

“For the 30 years since he has led a blameless life. He has had a lot of contact with juvenile females since, with no problems,” he said.

Prout - dressed in a dark blue suit jacket and blue tie - collapsed in the dock as Judge Mowat passed sentence. Paramedics were called to Reading Crown Court, Berkshire, but he was later taken off to start his prison sentence.

Judge Mowat said: “To send a man to prison for something he did when he was 18 some might say was outrageous. But to leave it unreflected, others would say is outrageous.

“In view of the authority by the Court of Appeal and current views about sentences I feel obliged to pass an immediate custodial sentence.”

Prout, now unemployed, was jailed for five counts of indecent assault.

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