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Retired Chester-le-Street careers officer who abused boys walks free from court
A RETIRED careers officer who abused teenage boys who went to him for advice walked free from court - despite his record of child sex offences.
Brian Oliver's ill-health and the passage of time - even though it is littered with other convictions - saved him from an immediate prison term.
Last night, campaigners reacted angrily to the news, and warned that the sentence could put off other victims of historic abuse coming forward.
They said: "The only way to ensure our children are kept safe and perpetrators are not able to carry out their wicked crimes is to lock them up."
Oliver, 77, was told by a judge that the suspended prison term he was imposing was "extremely unusual", and he added: "It's a very close-run thing."
It has since emerged that the divorced dad-of-two was convicted in 2008 of sexual assault after enticing him into his car in the west end of Newcastle.
Just two years later, Oliver, of Kells Lane, Gateshead, was prosecuted for breaching a Sexual Offences Prevention Order by having children in his car.
He tricked a schoolboy into getting in to his dark blue Jaguar after asking for directions on Gateshead High Street, prosecutor Paul Newcombe said.
On a later occasion, he told another boy he was looking for a computer repair shop to get him inside a silver personally-plated BMW, the court heard.
Since those incidents, a teenager who was abused when he went for careers advice has come forward to say he was abused the times in his office.
The victim was yesterday praised by Judge Tony Briggs, who said: "He is to be commended for his courage in making the allegation and pursuing it."
He told Oliver: "He has had an extremely unhappy life, one beset with difficulties. No-one can be in any doubt that your behaviour contributed.
"If matters had been disclosed and pursued earlier, it is undoubtedly the position you would have gone immediately to prison, and the public would expect nothing less."
Rachel Hedworth, mitigating, said Oliver had responded well to treatment after his earlier convictions, and not being jailed would help that continue.
A prison sentence within the guidelines - a 12-month staring point and range of six to 24 months - would not allow enough time for a course behind bars.
The anomaly in the regime - where sex offenders are being allowed free just for treatment - prompted The Northern Echo to campaign for a change.
The campaign has received the backing of politicians, organisations which deal with the aftermath of abuse and the region's police and crime commissioners.
Oliver admitted three charges of indecent assault on the boy in the early 1970s, as well as a fourth charge which concerned another lad around the same time.
He was given a 21-month sentence, suspended for two years, with 18 months of supervision, and was put on the sex offenders' register for ten years.
"He is filled with shame, he is filled with embarrassment, disgust and contrition," said Miss Hedworth. "He is completely and utterly remorseful.
"He recognises the devastating impact his actions have, without doubt, caused to [the victim] . . . he is terrified at the prospect of a custodial sentence."
Jon Bird, of the National Association of People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) said after the case: "Even at the age of 77, a man can present a severe danger to children and so he will have to be watched very closely.
"The fact that he has had a dangerous and unhealthy interest in children for most of his adult life fits a pattern we recognise only too well.
"It is very challenging for people to come forward and report this type of crime. We hear many reasons for this, but the most common are 'What is the point? The police can't do anything any way' or 'It was a long time ago, I won't be able to prove it in court'.
"So it is very important to send out the message that the crimes will be properly investigated and prosecuted wherever possible.
"The simple fact of old age is sometimes argued to be a reason to avoid a custodial sentence, but the abuser did not show any such concern for the wellbeing of a vulnerable child years ago."