Scout leader jailed for child sex offences

Martin Prater, of Whittle-le-Woods, has been jailed for 18 months
Martin Prater, of Whittle-le-Woods, has been jailed for 18 months

The disgraced former leader of a scout troop has been jailed for 18 months over a string of sexual offences involving a young girl.

Married father-of-two Martin Prater, 41, of The Elms, Whittle-le-Woods, touched the schoolgirl inappropriately and forced her to touch him.

Today her mother recalled how the traumatised teenager confided to her in a text message.

She said: "The colour drained from my face and I felt sick. We had been out shopping for a car and I hadn't heard my phone go off at first.

"I rang her and we went straight home.

"I feel very angry at how the Scouts have dealt with it. When we reported it to the safeguarding organisation in London, the woman on the phone told us they had a duty of care to their volunteers - what about a duty of care to my daughter?

"Another senior Scout member gave a reference to court as part of his defence. It is sickening.

" It has been a nightmare from the moment we found out. He denied what he had done right up until his trial date. My daughter believed until that day she was going to have to give evidence in court - she had even had the tour of the court.

"We had been warned his prison sentence may be suspended so are very pleased at the result - though in reality he will only do nine months or less."

Prosecuting, David Traynor described Prater, who was a leader in the Chorley District, had sent his young victim messages of a sexual nature in the run up to the offences.

Preston Crown Court heard the girl, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had consistently rebuffed his attempts at grooming her, and in one message replied: "It ain't gonna happen mate."

Prater sat in the dock at Preston Crown Court with his head in his hands as details of texts he had sent the youngster were read out.

One had said "Age is just a number". Another said: "I'd love you to give me one."

As his grooming behaviour continued, Prater groped the girl's bottom and kissed her in the middle of a pitch black field.

The offences took place in Chorley in March and April 2016.

In May 2016 the former Leyland St Mary's High School pupil, who worked as a fleet manager for a logistics firm, told the girl his wife had discovered some of the messages, and he asked her to delete their conversations.

The girl confided in her mum, realising it was wrong.

When confronted Prater told police it was nothing more than an arm around her shoulder and said the messages were to "boost her self esteem"

On the day of his trial he pleaded guilty to causing a child to engage in sexual activity and four counts of sexually assaulting the 14-year-old.

In a victim impact statement the girl said her ordeal had affected her grades.

Her mum said it had "taken away their confidence and trust in others" and "violated" their family life.

Defending, Beverley Hackett said: " The defendant comes before the court knowing that he finds himself in a very serious position. The offences are appalling. His behaviour, he accepts, is appalling. He understands the only true victim in this case is the complainant."

She said he feared going to prison, losing his job and coming to terms with his wrongdoing.

Judge Sara Dodd said: " Prior to these offences you had been in text contact with her, grooming her.

"Within weeks you were telling her you loved her. The messages were flirtatious.

"You were 40, You were a married man with two children. She was 14.

"The text messaging, flirting and grooming all continued.

"This matter is aggravated by the fact I'm dealing with a course of conduct."

She ordered him to sign the sex offender's register for 10 years, is barred from working with children and vulnerable adults, and was given a sexual harm prevention order and a restraining order.

She said she accepted his life and reputation were in ruins but said she had a public duty to send a deterrent message.

Abid Saleh, of Lancashire Constabulary’s CSE Unit, said: “Prater abused his position to groom a vulnerable girl for his own sexual gratification.

"We hope this sentence brings some closure to his victim and she can now move on with her life.

“We encourage anyone who feels they have been the victim of a sexual offence to come forward and we will investigate it thoroughly.

“We welcome today’s sentence, which reflects our commitment to tackling child sexual exploitation in Lancashire.”