March 2005

‘Cowboy’ plied girls with drink

A LINEDANCING letch dressed as a cowboy plied two schoolgirls with booze at a hoedown – knowing they were only half his age.

Matthew Barlow, 28, of Limekiln Row, Castlefields, pestered the 13-year-old pair and offered them whisky from a hip flask under his costume, Warrington crown court heard last week.

Judge David Hale scolded Barlow: “Aged 26 at the time you were approaching girls you knew to be 13, offering them alcohol and making improper suggestions to them.”

Barlow’s buddy, also in fancy dress, then threatened to expose himself and made lewd remarks about what was under the fake racoon tail he had around his waist.

Barlow originally pleaded not guilty to two counts of indecency and faced a trial before prosecutors downgraded the charge to harassment.

Sentencing him, Judge Hale warned next time he would go to jail: “You have got to learn you must not behave in a such a way and avoid situations that provide you with an opportunity where this can happen again.

“If there is ever any suggestion it might, you will go to prison.”

Barlow, a one-day-a-week porter, escaped with a community rehabilitation order and £346 costs after complications with a pre-sentence report forced the judge to deal with the case under a harassment act.

Prosecuting, Maria Massellis told the court how Barlow and his friend had harassed the girls, both pupils at a Runcorn secondary school, at the line-dancing night at Elton community centre near Helsby in October 2003.

The underage girls had asked Barlow to buy them a drink at the bar after he had started chatting to them.

Later when they were being picked up by one of the girls’ mums at midnight, Miss Massellis said Barlow continued to badger them with promises of phone calls.

The parent became suspicious after smelling whisky on her daughter’s breath and alerted police.

The prosecution said after his arrest, Barlow denied making any indecent suggestions to the girls or giving them alcohol but that he later accepted there had been ‘a sexual element’.

Summing up, Judge Hale said he was unable to recommend Barlow be put on the sex offenders register because the author of the report was not present in court.