Seaton sex offender jailed

Nine years for man who groomed woman with learning difficulties.

A SEATON man has been jailed for nine years for sexually abusing a woman with learning difficulties.

Paul Robert Martin-Irvine, 62, was convicted of three counts of sexual activity with the woman, who did not have the mental capacity to consent.

The court heard how he groomed the East Devon woman, in her 40s, and carried out the acts over a year – despite a police warning to stay away.

Prosecuting, Nicolas Gerasimidis said the pair had met in 2007 and Martin-Irvine groomed the victim with gifts, such as a gold necklace, black underpants and a small passport-sized photo of him.

He said: “She was asked if she loved him and she said ‘I don’t love him. He made me go to bed with him. I didn’t want to and I didn’t like it’.

“She had a strong desire to please and to avoid confrontation. She was clearly vulnerable in the context of a relationship and in the context of a sexual relationship.”

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Shortly after Martin-Irvine was caught embracing the victim, a clinical assessment showed she was of a very low intelligence and lacked the understanding for a sexual relationship.

In October 2008, police officers informed Martin-Irvine at his home that the victim was not capable of consenting to sexual acts and he should avoid contact with her.

But the following year the victim feared she was pregnant and, during a trip to her doctor, it emerged the pair had recently had sex.

Martin-Irvine, who attended court on crutches, told the victim not to tell her parents.

Mr Gerasimidis said: “She said she did not want to get pregnant or have sex with him. She wasn’t able to verbalise that. She was scared and was doing what he told her.

“On the other hand, she said she wanted the contact and to be kissed and cuddled by him, but didn’t want full sex.

“She believed they were secret lovers, girlfriend and boyfriend.”

The court heard he used condoms and made the victim clean herself and use talcum powder after intercourse – to hide the smell of sex.

The victim exchanged gifts, including a photo of herself and some underwear, which Martin-Irvine was said to have kept under his pillow.

When he was arrested, he said during police interview he had met the victim’s parents and was aware she had serious learning difficulties. He denied having a sexual relationship with her.

But in his diaries he implied they had a sexual relationship and eventually said ‘yeah, but it would never work’. He later pleaded guilty to the charges.

In mitigation, Rupert Taylor said: “Ultimately, what he hoped to achieve was a relationship. He hoped it might just work. He was trying to convince himself that it was OK.”

He said Martin-Irvine had been lonely since his partner died and that he had no contact with his ex-wife or children. He added he was physically unwell and had suffered from depression and anxiety, with legal proceedings adding to the strain.

Apart from one matter of dishonesty, he said he was a man of good character and a low risk offender.

He said: “He’s somebody of a more childlike disposition. He allowed himself to give in to temptation. He allowed himself to become deluded about this – it’s a matter of sadness, not wickedness.”

Judge John Neligan criticised Martin-Irvine for not taking responsibility and for ‘contriving’ to keep their relationship secret.

He said: “The fact that you are 62 is an aggravating feature.

“You are older, wiser, a more worldly person and shouldn’t have put your desires before trust and responsibility you would have had with your meetings with her.”

He added: “There’s no question you shouldn’t have other than a custodial sentence.”

He gave him nine years concurrent for each count, but said he could be out in four and half years if he abided by the terms of his licence.

He also imposed a sexual prevention order.

Officer on the case, detective constable Chris Willsdon from Honiton CID, welcomed the sentence.

He said: “It reflects the serious nature of the offences he has committed against a very vulnerable woman.

“As a result of the partnership Devon and Cornwall Police have with the local NHS trust and social services, we were able to successfully bring to justice an offender who was found guilty of sexually exploiting a woman with a learning disability.

“Such offences are, thankfully, very rare, especially in the East Devon area.

“Devon and Cornwall Police remain committed to helping and protecting all members of our society, including the most vulnerable.”