A PERVERT who lured girls back to his Huddersfield home has been locked up.
But a judge who jailed sexual predator John Catterson has hit out at restrictions on the sentence.
Catterson, who had convictions for other sex crimes dating back to the late 1970s, was jailed for a total of 32 months when he appeared at Bradford Crown Court.
He had earlier admitted two offences involving girls he had invited back to his house in Westgate, Almondbury – only a short distance from a local school.
Judge Jonathan Durham Hall (pictured) said he would have liked to impose a much tougher sentence on Catterson but was bound by guidelines and recent changes in the way indeterminate sentences could be made.
Tall, bespectacled Catterson had previous convictions dating back to the late 1970s for offences mainly of indecent exposure, but Judge Durham Hall QC jailed him yesterday after he groomed two nine-year-old girls to visit his home by offering sweets, ice-cream and games of pool.
During visits to the house – which Catterson shared with his wife – the 57-year-old tried to force one of the girls to touch him and he also performed a sex act on himself in front of the youngsters.
Bradford Crown Court heard that the unsuspecting parents of the girls thought they were visiting a friend of a similar age and only realised last October that they were at Catterson’s home.
The house is just 100 yards from Almondbury CE Infant School.
Following his arrest, Catterson told an officer on the way to the police station: “I’ll be honest. I’ve been a sexual predator since I was 22.’’
Catterson admitted one offence of sexual assault on a girl under 13 and one offence of engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child, but after legal discussions about the sentencing guidelines for such offences and the danger posed by the defendant, Judge Durham Hall concluded that he could not pass the required four-year term which could have led to an indeterminate imprisonment order.
The judge said he had no doubt that Catterson was a very serious danger to children and he should get an indeterminate sentence, but he said Parliament had ‘raised the bar’ for such sentences.
The threshold for the indeterminate sentences is four years and the two offences that Catterson committed do not carry such a tally in the sentencing guidelines for judges.
Judge Durham Hall said: “The problem is Parliament has raised the bar. Because judges, in support of the public and the need to protect people from people like Mr Catterson, were making orders, Parliament seems to have made it more difficult for judges to impose these very draconian orders.
“So the upshot of this is that the guidelines prohibit me from passing a sentence which would be sufficient to activate the recently-raised bar for the imposition of an indeterminate sentence notwithstanding the fact that in my judgement this man poses a very real risk to children.’’
Catterson’s barrister Gillian Batts said he was remorseful and he appreciated the impact on the victims and their families.
She said he had been trying to address his problems while on remand, but Judge Durham Hall described him as “an untreatable sexual predator.’’
At the time of the latest offences Catterson was subject to a three-year community order imposed in 2008 and March last year for offences of indecent exposure.
Judge Durham Hall said the offences involving the girls represented a worrying and sinister escalation in Catterson’s offending and it was clear that the community orders had not worked.
He said: “I regret in view of my assessment of your risk that I am prohibited by Parliament from imposing a sentence which, in my judgement, is needed to protect the public from you.’’
Catterson will be subject to an indefinite sexual offences prevention order following his release and he will also have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
The mother of one of his victims has already spoken about how Catterson had wrecked her daughter’s life.
She said the little girl had been having terrible nightmares following the abuse at the hands of Catterson.
She said: “We don’t talk about it because we want her to have a normal life – but it has affected her really badly.
“She can’t be like all the other kids her age anymore, with the freedom to go to the park with her friends.”
The angry mum said she was happy Catterson was jailed.
She said: “If he came back I think he would be a serious risk to children.”