CHILD-ABUSE TRIAL: Mansfield man to be jailed after sexual assault on little girl

NEWS from Nottingham Crown Court.
NEWS from Nottingham Crown Court.

A 64-year-old Mansfield man is to be jailed after he was found guilty on one count of sexually abusing a little girl at her home.

However, a jury at Nottingham Crown Court found him not guilty on two separate charges of sexually touching her on other occasions. This followed uncertainty over the dates on which he could have been left alone with the girl.

The findings came at the end of a five-day trial in which John Lett, of Arran Square, denied all three allegations.

Lett was warned by the judge, Recorder Stuart Sprawson, that he faces “a substantial and significant term of imprisonment”. “It is just a question of how long,” the judge said.

Lett will be sentenced on Thursday, May 12 after a psychiatric report and a pre-sentence report by the probation service have been compiled on him.

The judge told him: “You have been convicted of a single charge of sexual assault against a very young child.

“I now need to know more about you, your background and aspects of your behaviour.”

The charges against Lett related to when the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was aged between five and eight on dates between January 2011 and October 2013.

The trial heard that the alleged offences happened when Lett was looking after the girl at her Mansfield home during school holidays while her father attended medical appointments at hospital or a doctor’s surgery.

This was a favour to the dad, with whom he had become “quite good friends” after the dad had split up with his wife (the girl’s mother) and she had moved out. Lett used to visit the home for cups of tea and to help with DIY jobs around the house.

The jury watched a video interview with the girl, conducted by police officers. She said she was assaulted virtually every time she was left alone with Lett, who warned her not to tell anyone. She said he told her to pull down her trousers and pants and then he committed an obscene act.

“It definitely happened,” the girl told barristers in a live video-link to the court. “I am not lying.”

The abuse did not come to light, the court heard, until two years later in September 2015 when the mum moved back in to the family home and discovered why Lett had suddenly disappeared in 2013. It was because he had been serving a jail term for sexually assaulting a girl and possessing indecent images of children.

She asked her daughter whether Lett had ever touched her, and eventually she began to scream.

The mum was horrified by what she was told. “I thought John could be trusted,” she said in a statement. “He seemed like a genuinely nice family man.”

The mum made a harrowing 999 call to the police, which was relayed to the jury.

In the background, the girl could he heard crying. “She was clearly distraught and frightened of the consequences, that he might find her and do something to her,” Stephen Kemp, prosecuting, told the court.

When Lett was arrested, he denied he had any sexual interest in children, nor that he was ever left alone in the house with the girl.

He said the girl was “affectionate” towards him and ran up to him for a hug every time he visited. He also popped her on his knee to help her with her reading, and said the idea that he sexually touched her was “disgusting”.

But Mr Kemp said the only alternative to Lett’s guilt was that the girl, who is now ten, “lied and and was deluded, that it was all an act and a figment of her imagination”.

“But is this a realistic possibility?” the prosecution barrister asked. “To accuse a man she had last seen two years earlier and for no apparent reason? A man she had been fond of, who had been a friend of her father and had helped her with her reading?”

A key part of Lett’s defence related to the dates when the alleged abuse took place.

Apart from one date in April 2013, it was claimed by Dominic Shelley, defending, that Lett was either working or the girl was staying with her mother or her grandparents as part of custody arrangements after her parents, who are now divorced, had split up.

Other dates quoted in 2011 were disputed because, according to evidence given in court by the girl’s father, the parents had not separated until October that year and the mother was still living at the house until March 2012.

When this was highlighted towards the end of the trial, Mr Kemp made an application to re-open the prosecution case so that the exact dates of the separation could be clarified, while Mr Shelley made an application for the second and third counts (on which Lett was eventually found not guilty ) to be withdrawn.

However, the judge rejected both applications on the grounds that it was up to the jury to assess the evidence as they had heard it.

In his summing-up, the judge told the jury: “This type of case does stir emotions. Please ignore them and put them to one side. You must decide objectively.”

He said they had to ask themselves two questions: did the offences occur and did Lett have the opportunity to commit them.