October 2013

Ex-taxi boss jailed after sex with ‘troubled’ 14-year-old boy from Braintree

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A FORMER taxi boss who pleaded guilty to abducting, grooming and engaging in sexual activity with a schoolboy has been jailed for 16 months.

Gareth Braithwaite, 42, admitted to chatting to and texting the 14-year-old from Braintree online before arranging to meet, and entering into sexual relations with the child on May 28.

At Chelmsford Crown Court on Thursday the ex-businessman was sentenced to 16 months for what the judge regarded as “a grave error in judgement”.

Braithwaite, from Chatham, Kent, met the teenager via a social networking site earlier this year and the pair exchanged sexually explicit texts “of a wholly inappropriate kind”.

His young victim repeatedly made reference to a relationship between them, calling the 42-year-old “hun” and “my baby”. The pair had later arranged to meet at a Witham pub before heading on to Freeport Braintree but concerns were raised by teachers and school friends who became aware the teen had been “meeting up with adult males”.

Handing down the jail term Judge David Turner QC said: “I accept that initially you thought you were contacting someone of age for the purpose of a lawful homosexual relationship.

“But at a relatively early stage it was clear this was a much younger boy. Police had significant concerns – clearly he was a troubled boy and you were a middle-aged adult.

“Tragically he had already lost his innocence and had been damaged; he appears to be a willing participant in that sexual activity.

“At that point you should have run a mile, but not only did you not run, you got drawn further and further in and this was a grave error in judgement.”

When apprehended by Essex Police at the shopping village, near McDonald’s, the victim was found in Braithwaite’s Range Rover.

A room key for a Southend hotel was also found.

However Stephen Rose, defending, said: “This young man was already sexually experienced with contact with at least one adult male long before he came across my client on the internet.

“The defendant is not a habitual trawler of the internet for young boys, he accepts what he did was wrong.

“But the defendant was in the car not only voluntarily, but with enthusiasm.”

A point of contention was that penetrative sex could not be proved.

Braithwaite had also set up a bank card account to pay the victim money – often at his request.

The court heard how the defendant had used the account to give the victim money for CDs, a bike and even to get a new tattoo.

Speaking to the Chronicle after the sentencing, Gareth Braithwaite’s brother Duncan, who used to drive for his brother’s Kent-based company, said: “He’s just a regular, normal guy, who’s gay and got caught up in a situation that got out of control on him.

“He’s not been searching for young boys online, he’s not a paedophile, he accepts what he did and knows he’s done wrong and pleaded guilty and co-operated from the outset.”

Braithwaite was sentenced to 16 months in prison for one count of child abduction, six months for sexual activity with a child and nine month for grooming a child under 16.

These are to be served concurrently and a fourth count of possessing and downloading indecent images of children was left to lie on file.