A JUDO coach who was spared jail for molesting a schoolgirl and bombarding her with lewd text messages has started a two-year prison term after top judges ruled his sentence was too soft.
David Wright was handed a 15-month suspended sentence at Newcastle Crown Court in July after admitting three counts of indecent assault and one of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.
The 52-year-old, of Houghton, was also given a sexual offences prevention order and ordered to remain under supervision for two years and complete a rehabilitation programme.
But judges sitting at London’s Criminal Appeal Court said that sentence was ‘manifestly too lenient’ – and replaced it with the two-year jail term.
Lord Justice Pitchford, sitting with Mr Justice Dingemans and Judge Peter Rook QC, said the crown court judge had not taken enough account of the impact of the crimes on the victim, adding: “This was not a finely-balanced sentencing exercise.
“This was a young girl at a delicate stage of her development.
“These offences will have long-term consequences on her psychology and, no doubt, on her relationships in future.
“The first time Wright sought help was once he was caught.”
The court heard Wright molested his teenage victim and then later began a campaign of text messages designed to groom the victim and tried to coerce her with offers of money and presents.
His sick behaviour was revealed when the girl’s mother discovered the messages on her mobile phone and called the police.
The court heard she was left ‘withdrawn and isolated’ following the offences.
When interviewed by probation officers, Wright said he had never had any sexual interest in the victim and blamed his offending on alcohol misuse.
Lawyers acting on behalf of the Solicitor General, Robert Buckland QC, argued the suspended sentence handed to Wright was ‘unduly lenient’ and urged the court to increase it.
Imposing the two-year term, Lord Justice Pitchford added: “This was repeated sexual assault upon a girl a fraction of his age.
“He effected to have no explanation for his contact, save for his misuse of alcohol.”
He said Wright was warned off by the victim but later started inciting her to further indecent acts by attempting to bribe her with money and gifts.
He added: “It seems to us that the offences were so serious that a suspended sentence of 15 months was manifestly too lenient.”
Wright was ordered to report to Gilbridge Police Station in Sunderland by 4pm yesterday to start his jail term.
Mr Buckland said later: “I referred this case to the Court of Appeal as unduly lenient because the original sentence failed to reflect the seriousness of the offences in the light of the victim’s age at the time the offences were committed. I also think insufficient weight was given in this case to the fact that there were repeated sexual assaults over a period of time.
“I am pleased that the Court of Appeal has today quashed the suspended sentence and instead introduced a jail term of two years.”