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Convicted sex offender took sneaky photos of young girls in Sunderland's The Bridges shopping centre

Robert Hart took pictures of young girls in The Bridges shopping centre
Robert Hart took pictures of young girls in The Bridges shopping centre

A sex offender was not breaking the law when he sneakily took pictures of young girls in a shopping centre during the summer holidays.

Pervert Robert Hart had been released on licence part way through a ten-year prison sentence for making indecent images of children.

The 46-year-old was spotted at The Bridges shopping centre, in Sunderland, where he had two digital cameras and a mobile phone.

Newcastle Crown Court heard he took "numerous photographs" of "young females" he did not know.

When challenged by police, he handed over a camera containing the images.

The court heard he had not committed an offence in relation to those, but he failed to immediately disclose he had a second camera in his possession.

Although the second camera contained no pictures of children, his failure to immediately disclose its existence put him in breach of a sexual offences prevention order.

Now Hart, who has been recalled to prison on the ten-year sentence, has been jailed for a year.

The court heard it was early afternoon on August 2 when he was spotted at the shopping mall and identified on CCTV as a registered sex offender.

Prosecutor Neil Pallister said: "A police officer was approached by a young female who said a male had been taking pictures of her and some children in the shopping centre, without consent.

"She pointed out the defendant and he was taken to one side by the officer and asked if he had any electronic devices on his person.

"He volunteered a mobile phone and a camera which he said he had just found.

"When that was looked at by the officer, it contained numerous images of young females, which had been taken from a distance without their consent."

Hart was arrested and when he was searched he was found to have the second camera.

Mr Pallister added: "That put him in breach of one of the prohibitions of a sexual offences prevention order. He was prohibited from possessing a device capable of storing digital images unless he made the device available for inspection by a police officer.

"He did not initially disclose that to the police when asked."

Hart, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to breaching the sexual offences prevention order, which had been imposed in 2013 for five years, when he appeared in court last Friday.

The court heard he has 51 previous convictions, including five for sex offences.

He was jailed for ten years in July 2014 for making indecent images of children - a sentence he has now been recalled to prison to serve.

Recorder Margia Mostafa said: "I find the facts of this case alarming.

"You knew the conditions you were under to protect the public.

"The police officer saw numerous images of young females. I’m not told how many images but those images ought not to have been taken, while it’s not a criminal offence."

Alec Burns, defending , said: "It was not the worst breach - it was the camera which didn’t have images on it.

"The camera with the images on, they were not illegal images.

"He gave up the camera which had the images on."