A pedophile sports coach who was found guilty of sexually abusing a seven-year-old girl at least 16 times has been spared prison after a judge said he has “needs” that won’t be met behind bars and he might be “physically taken advantage of” while in prison.
Antonio Lawrie, 22, who worked for sports firm My Coaching, faced years in prison after he was found guilty of repeatedly molesting the child in Southampton, England, over a six month period.
But Judge Gary Burrell ruled it wouldn’t be right to send him to prison because his “complex” learning difficulties meant he would be “taken advantage of both physically and mentally”.
Critics of the decision claim Judge Gary Burrell appeared more interested in ensuring Lawrie is not “taken advantage of” in prison than he was in ensuring innocent children in the community are protected from pedophiles.
Lawrie, who remained unapologetic during the trial, denied all seven counts of assault by sexual touching but was found guilty on all charges, the Sun reported.
During his sentencing Jon Swain, mitigating, told the court the pedophile should not be sentenced to prison because he “struggled to make friends with people his own age,” and had “difficulties realising his actions were wrong.”
He said: “Certain sections of society will say he must be punished and locked up with the key thrown away.
“But they are not aware or have the knowledge of what his needs are. They know nothing about his life but make up opinions of what he has done.”
Judge Gary Burrell QC agreed and decided against sentencing Lawrie to prison. He was given a restraining order preventing him from contacting children for 10 years, a 60-day rehabilitation order, and a tw0 year suspended sentence.
Following the sentencing, an NSPCC spokesperson told the Sun Online: “The most important person in this whole case is the seven-year-old Lawrie abused, and we hope they are receiving all available support to overcome the trauma in order to move forward with their life.
“It is right Lawrie goes through rehabilitation, which is a vital step in protecting more children from sexual abuse.”
Critics of the “shockingly lenient” sentence claim that pedophiles should not be spared prison sentences because they might be “physically taken advantage of” in prison.