December 2019

Paedophile threatened child that ‘ghost’ would take them away if they told anyone

Depraved Jonathan McLean, 31, made the victim relive the ordeal in court

The paedophile told his young victim that a “ghost” would get them and “take them away” if they told anyone about the abuse.

Jonathan McLean, 31, of Masseyfield Road, Brookvale, Runcorn, had denied all charges but was found guilty of six counts of child abuse by jurors at trial in November: four of touching, one sexual assault, and one of incitement to engage in sexual activity.

Today he faced justice at his sentencing hearing, where he was jailed for up to 15 years.

Anna Pope, prosecuting, told Chester Crown Court how McLean had warned his victim not to confide in anyone about his crimes.

But concerns mounted over changes in the youngster’s behaviour and mood.

Miss Pope said the victim became “withdrawn” and suffered loss of appetite and weight around the time of their ordeal.

They also lost interest in their usual activities such as reading, and at first, suspicions stirred that the child had been subject to violence.

A confidant learned what had happened when the youngster began crying and divulged their experiences.

The victim revealed that McLean had threatened them into silence by warning that a “ghost would get” them and “take them away” if anyone learned about his actions.

The court heard heartbreaking details about the traumatic emotional impact of the abuse, and how the NSPCC has provided therapy.

In addition, the youngster had “relived the memories” in having to attend court because of McLean’s denials.

“Extreme youth” was aggravating factor

Miss Pope said McLean had denied the offences and claimed the victim had been “put up to the allegations”.

David Birrell, representing the defence, said McLean had no past similar convictions and that it was his first spell in custody.

He challenged the sentencing category proposed by the prosecution based over whether the child was a “toddler”.

Judge Thompson rejected the defence counsel’s view and said the victim’s “extreme youth” was an aggravating feature of the case.

The judge sentenced McLean to a sentence totalling 15 years, comprising 14 years’ custody and one year on extended licence – meaning if he offends again he could be recalled and serve the full 15 years behind bars.

McLean will be eligible to apply for parole after seven years.

He was placed on the sex offenders’ register for life and a Sexual Harm Prevention Order was made indefinitely with prohibitions over unsupervised contact with under-18s.

Judge Thompson thanked interested parties in the public gallery for how they conducted themselves during the trial and as the verdicts were given.

He thanked Cheshire police for their “professional” handling of the case, and praised legal counsel for the “robust” trial.

“Only custody” is justified

Sentencing McLean, Judge Thompson said his denials of his crimes meant the victim had to “relive those events”.

Judge Thompson said: “It demonstrates your lack of empathy, and your concern is only for yourself.”

He added: “In respect of each offence, only a custodial sentence can be justified.

“The total sentence reflecting the whole of the offending will be 15 years with a custodial term of 14 years and one year on licence.”

The judge paid tribute to the victim’s “courage” in giving evidence and expressed his hope that they “gain some closure and look forward to a brighter future”.

McLean maintains he is innocent.