A St Leonards man has been jailed for a sexual offence against a young girl and intimidating a witness, according to police.
Police said on Monday (May 14) at Hove Crown Court, Andrew Barlow, 48, a restaurant worker, of St Leonards, was convicted of inciting the girl, then under 16, to commit an act of gross indecency, and witness intimidation, after a two-week trial.
According to police, he was given three months imprisonment for the gross indecency offence, which took place more than 15 years ago, and will be a registered sex offender for seven years.
He was also given seven months imprisonment, police said, to run consecutively with the three-month sentence, for perverting the course of justice by witness intimidation.
Barlow was also given a restraining order, to last indefinitely, prohibiting him from any further contact with his victim, police said.
Police said he was also found not guilty of three offences of sexual activity in the presence of a child over a period of four years. The jury could not come to a conclusion on two other such counts and were therefore discharged. The CPS decided not to see a retrial on these five counts.
A spokesman for Sussex Police said the investigation began when Barlow went to the police with concerns that other people were spreading malicious lies about him being a sex offender.
The gross indecency offence took place in the area of the public toilets at Little Common, Bexhill, and involved Barlow engaging in grooming and predatory behaviour towards the vulnerable young girl whom he subjected to ‘sexual conversations and suggestions’, the spokesman added.
She was then taken to the public toilet, according to the spokesman, where he told her to remove her top clothing, to put on his jacket and then to prove to him she did not have her top on by unzipping the jacket and showing him.
The girl initially refused but was told by Barlow that it was important she did as he asked so he knew he could trust her, police added.
The police spokesman said Barlow also threatened the father of a witness against him during the investigation.
Detective Constable Nick O’Shaughnessy of the Hastings Safeguarding Investigations Unit said: “If it were not for the victim’s bravery there is every likelihood that Barlow would have escaped justice. She was very scared and frightened of him and to his denying the allegation she had to endure the rigours of a trial.
“We encourage anyone who has been subjected to sexual offences to come forward to us. Do not be exploited. Please talk to us – we will listen and we will act. Sussex Police can be contacted on 101 or online and arrangements can be made for you to talk in confidence to experienced investigators.”