A man with ‘an inappropriate sexual interest in teenage boys’ has been banned from all public swimming baths and leisure centres.
But Christopher Eaton narrowly escaped being jailed after performing a sex act in front of a 14-year-old boy in the changing room showers at a swimming pool.
Eaton, 55, of Meldrum Court, Temple Herdewyke, near Southam, had denied a charge of sexual activity in the presence of a child, but changed his plea to guilty on the day of his trial at Warwick Crown Court.
And at Coventry Crown Court, following an adjournment for a pre-sentence report on him, he escaped the prison sentence he richly deserved and was given a three-year community sentence.
Eaton will be under supervision for three years and was ordered to take part in a three-year sex offenders’ programme, to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work, to pay £1,500 costs and to register as a sex offender for five years.
Judge Philip Gregory also made a sexual harm prevention order under which, among other restrictions, Eaton is banned indefinitely from entering or seeking to enter any public swimming pool or leisure centre.
He commented: “I consider it necessary for the protection of teenage boys from the sexual interest of this defendant.”
Prosecutor Daniel Oscroft said that said that although Eaton had no relevant convictions ‘in this jurisdiction,’ he was convicted in Northern Ireland in 2000 of purchasing intoxicating liquor for minors.
He pointed out that although Eaton was not prosecuted for it, that conviction had followed an investigation into an alleged incitement to commit acts of gross indecency when he had met some boys who were fishing in a remote area, bought them alcohol and was said to have invited them to perform sex acts.
Marcus Hart, defending, said that despite denials to the probation officer who prepared a report on him, Eaton ‘accepts his guilt unreservedly.’
“He has had difficulty accepting the nature of his actions. It is highly embarrassing for him to accept what he’s done. He is exceptionally remorseful.”
But Judge Philip Gregory commented: “He denied it to the police, pleaded not guilty and only finally admitted it on the day of trial, then sought to resile from that when he was interviewed by the probation officer. Where’s the remorse in that?”
And when Mr Hart said that in Northern Irelend Eaton had only been convicted of purchasing alcohol for a minor, the Judge retorted: “There’s only one reason for that, and that is to act as some form of grooming behaviour.”
Mr Hart added that although Eaton, a French polisher with his own business, expected to go to prison, there were a number of options including the community order with a sex offenders’ treatment programme recommended in the pre-sentence report.
Sentencing Eaton, Judge Gregory told him: “You plainly have an inappropriate sexual interest in teenage boys.
“You engaged in sexual conduct in front of a 14-year-old boy in the shower when you were naked. This was a deeply upsetting and, I have no doubt, frightening thing for that young man to witness.
“You have plainly had great difficulty in making an honest admission to what you did and facing up to your own sexual desires.
“You could not complain if I were to make an order today sending you straight to jail.
“But were I to pass a custodial sentence you would be released within a few months and would not have addressed your sexual interests at all. The longer-term benefit for society is for you to do just that.
“You will be required to complete this order properly. If you fail in any of these respects, you will be brought back before the court and I will send you to jail, which you richly deserve.”