Sunderland pensioner spared jail over 1960s sex attacks

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A PENSIONER has been spared jail over sex attacks he carried out half a century ago, so he will not die behind bars.

Richard Donavan started targeting girls in the early 1960s.

At Newcastle Crown Court, Judge Roger Thorn QC told the 82-year-old: “Were I to sentence you to prison today, given you have exceeded your biblical span of three score years and 10, you would probably die in prison.”

The judge said Donavan’s admission of guilt and the fact he has gone on to live a “blameless” life since the attacks, meant the two-year jail term could be suspended for two years.

Donavan must sign the sex offenders’ register for five years.

Judge Thorn warned Donavan he should not misunderstand the harm his offending caused to his victims.

At an earlier hearing, Donavan pleaded guilty to four charges of sexual assault and three of indecency with a child, relating to two victims, starting 50 years ago.

Donavan was allowed to sit with his solicitor rather than go into the dock during the proceedings, to enable him to hear what was being said more easily.

Tony Hawkes, defending said Donavan admitted his guilt as soon as he was confronted with the allegations against him.

Mr Hawkes told the court: “He has led a decent life, worked hard all his life.

“All he has to look forward to is not just the public disgrace he has brought upon himself but he really has just a rather lonely death, frankly, to look forward to.”

The court heard Donavan, of Queen Alexandra Road, Sunderland, has had a recent heart by-pass and is in poor health.