Feb 2010

Convicted paedophile gets job driving children around park

A convicted paedophile who was jailed for attacking children managed to get a job driving youngsters around a park.

Brian Stephens – who is on the sex offenders’ register for life – worked as the driver of a miniature train for six months before he was spotted by an off-duty policeman.

The 71-year-old was jailed for five years in 2001 for attacking two schoolgirls who were both under the age of 14.

But after his release, Stephens was able to hide his past and secure a job at Roker Park in Sunderland.

Yesterday, a court banned the pensioner from parks, leisure centres and school  playgrounds.

Sunderland Magistrates Court imposed a Sexual Offences Prevention Order and Stephens was told he faces jail if he breaks it.

Last night the Sunderland Model Engineering Society – which operates the children’s train – admitted it had not checked Stephens’ record but insisted youngsters were never at risk.

Secretary Albert Stephenson said: ‘The club has a policy of no physical contact with  any of our passengers. This is something we do in accordance with national  guidelines.

‘This man is no longer a member of our club.’

But parents using the park yesterday expressed their anger that Stephens had worked so closely with children.

A 33-year-old mother of a toddler son said: ‘How did someone with a past like his get a job in the first place? There are supposed to be checks.

‘I would not leave my children unattended but you don’t like to think what is going through these people’s minds.’

Another mother, with a child aged eight and another aged one, added: ‘I do believe in giving everyone a second chance but you do wonder how he got the job.

‘I work for the NHS and I have to have Criminal Records Bureau check.’

At Sunderland Magistrates Court yesterday, Stephens was told he is forbidden from working with children and is banned from approaching or contacting girls aged under 16.

He is not allowed to be alone with or attract the attention of any girls under 16 and must stay away from any area which attracts youngsters such as leisure centres, zoos, amusements arcades and school playgrounds.

The order cannot be challenged for five years and Stephens could be sent to prison if he breaches any of the conditions.

Defending, Michael Robinson said his client would not be challenging the order.

He said: ‘An off-duty police officer identified Mr Stephens in certain circumstances. I’ve explained to him if the court were to hear this application in full there is a likelihood the order would be made.

‘There have been no further incidents and it is clear there will be no further arrests or investigations for any kind of sexual offending.

‘The order is all about the prevention of serious sexual harm and he has to go along with that. There is no reason to think he would not.’

Meg Boustead, head of Safeguarding at Sunderland City Council, said: ‘Safeguarding the young and vulnerable is a priority for everyone in Sunderland and the city council welcomes the decision of the magistrates in this case.’