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04-07-2011, 05:12 AM,
Quote:Tuesday April 5 2011 by Mark Blacklock

A JUDGE yesterday sparked outrage by accusing a schoolgirl of seducing a paedophile – and then let the pervert walk free.

David Barnes, 24, met the 13-year-old girl in an internet chatroom and persuaded her to perform a sex act while he watched over a webcam.

Police who later raided his home found hundreds of obscene pictures and movies on his ­computers. One showed a handcuffed five-year-old being raped.

The shop worker from Darlington, Co Durham, admitted 17 specimen charges of making indecent images and one of inciting a child to engage in ­sexual activity.

But when Barnes appeared before Judge Peter Fox at Teesside Crown Court he was given a ­suspended sentence.

The judge said that it was difficult to reconcile the public image of a hard-working and highly thought of young man with that of a child sex fiend.

He said the child porn – some of which was at the most serious level of obscenity – would shock Barnes’ family and friends.

He added: “And in addition, there was your perverted activities over the internet with the 13-year-old, who, I accept, appears to have seduced you.”

Neil Atkinson, spokesman for the National Victims’ Association, said: “Thirteen-year-olds have to be protected – they are children. Intellectually, ethically, morally and in every other way you can’t point the finger at a 13-year-old and blame her. The thought of this happening chills the blood.”

The judge triggered similar fury in 2008 when he freed a 40-year-old woman who had sex with a boy of 14 after saying the teenager had seduced her.

The judge admitted the public would be “puzzled” by the ­“lenient” sentence handed to Barnes. A probation report also described Barnes as a “high risk” to children.

But Judge Fox said he was bound by Government guidelines. These recommend a sentence of up to seven years for inciting children to engage in sexual activity and up to nine years for the most serious child pornography.

A Sentencing Council spokesman said: "Sentencing guidelines should be followed, unless a judge feels it is not in the interests of justice to do so. If a judge believes that a guideline prevents the correct sentence from being given in an exceptional case, he or she can sentence outside of the guideline and up to the statutory maximum.

Judge Fox said he took into account Barnes’ guilty pleas and previous good character, and gave him a four-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, with supervision and 300 hours unpaid community work.

He said that Barnes would be able to continue with a sex offender treatment programme which was not available in jail.

Judge Fox said: “The few weeks you would spend in prison would do nothing to stop you doing this again. My ­concern is for the future – the protection of other children”.

Barnes was arrested in October 2009 as part of a police probe into chatroom conversations between the girl and adult men.

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