Police found schoolgirl hiding in cupboard in man's house

Police found schoolgirl hiding in cupboard in man's house

IN COURT: Sean Lancaster arrives at Teesside Crown Court. Picture: TOM BANKS (9815166)

IN COURT: Sean Lancaster arrives at Teesside Crown Court. Picture: TOM BANKS (9815088)

First published in News
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The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Assistant News Editor

A MAN who was banned from having any contact with a schoolgirl was in court yesterday (Friday, August 29) after police twice found the teenager in his home.

Sean Lancaster was spared prison for child abduction after a judge said: "I don't think it could be said it was the most serious form."

Lancaster, from Gainford, near Darlington, was served with a harbouring notice in January amid worries about him spending time with the girl.

Police explained to the 26-year-old - who is said to have a low IQ - that he could face seven years in jail if they were found together.

Yet, twice within the space of a week in April, the pair were discovered in each other's company, Teesside Crown court was told.

When the girl failed to turn up at school one day, police were alerted and officers went to the home of Lancaster's mother in Hartlepool.

The youngster was found in a bedroom at the flat, sitting in bed with a sheet covering her lower half, said prosecutor Paul Newcombe.

Lancaster - who claimed the girl turned up on his doorstep "in a poor state" - was arrested, given the warning again and given bail.

But five days later, when the teenager was reported missing from home, she was found at Lancaster's then home in Wilson Street, Hartlepool.

Police got no answer when they knocked at 1.30am, and forced their way in after a length of wood had been put behind the door as a brace.

The girl was found hiding in a cupboard on the landing, and Lancaster said to officers: "Am I going to go to jail for this?"

Lorraine Mustard, mitigating, said on neither occasion had her client taken the girl - she had sought him out and he took her in.

"Perhaps because he is a little soft-hearted, as soon as [the girl], despite her age, has come to him . . . he felt unable to say no.

"There is throughout this offending, no malice or bad intention on the part of Sean Lancaster. If he had different personal skills, he may have been able to deal with it in a different manner."

Lancaster, of Main Street, Gainford, admitted two charges of child abduction, and was given a nine-month suspended sentence with supervision.

Judge Tony Briggs told him: "Although you have difficulties, I am quite certain that you knew, certainly by the time of the second offence, that she should not have been at your house."

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