A man who sexually abused three young girls has been spared jail – because his ‘bad back’ would cause him ‘considerable discomfort’ in prison.
John Chappell, 60, finally faced justice more than 40 years after his vile historic crimes.
In 1974, he got the girls – two of whom were aged under 14-years-old – alone and indecently touched them, in one case during a game of hide-and-seek.
Chappell, who was aged only 16 or 17 at the time of the offences, also asked his victims to perform indecent acts upon him.
He was also convicted for a ‘remarkably similar offence’ just a year later in 1975 and given a conditional discharge. Then in 1977, he was handed a £300 fine for gross indecency with a child.
Finally facing justice some four decades after his offences, a judge at Plymouth Crown Court on Thursday called Chappell’s previous sentence ‘remarkable’.
Judge Ian Lawrie handed the 60-year-old a suspended prison sentence, taking into consideration that Chappell suffers from curvature of the spine.
Judge Lawrie said: ‘This would cause you considerable discomfort in prison.
‘The sentence is designed to punish you and is not an exercise in revenge, much as that might be the wish of those who suffered at your hands.’
Chappell, of Bristol, pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting two girls aged under 14 in 1974.
He also admitted inciting one of those girls to perform an indecent act – and, finally, pleaded guilty to a similar offence in relation to the third girl.
Prosecuting, Emily Pitts said that Chappell abused the first victim several times, and asked the girl to touch him indecently.
Miss Pitts said: ‘She told a couple of people over the years before it all came out at a funeral.’
Jason Beal, defending Chappell, said his client was full of shame and had written an apology letter to his victims.
Mr Beal said: ‘Shame will inevitably flow from the prison sentence imposed upon him.
‘Some who receive a suspended prison sentence will think they have got away with it. That is not the situation in this case.
‘He is 60-years-old and had been away from the courts for 40 years. He has managed to carve out a new life and work successfully until his retirement.’
Handing Chappell a suspended prison sentence, Judge Lawrie said: ‘These offences were against vulnerable children.
‘They were vulnerable because of their age and lack of experience of life.’
He warned Chappell that if the offences had been committed after 2003, when the law changed, they would have attracted long prison sentences.