A CHILD sex offender from Leeds who fled to Asia has been jailed for more than six years, less than 24 hours after Yorkshire detectives escorted him back to the UK.
Former riding instructor Damien Midgley, 39, was convicted two years ago of sexually assaulting four girls, all under the age of 13.
But he did not attend his trial, fleeing instead to Thailand and later crossing into Cambodia.
The trial continued in his absence, forcing his victims to go through the ordeal of giving evidence to a jury.
Today at York Crown Court, Midgley, from Aberford, near Leeds, was handed his original six-year sentence, and a further eight months for breaching the conditions of his bail by absconding.
He was brought home after a European Arrest Warrant was issued. North Yorkshire Police worked with the UK’s National Crime Agency to launch an investigation which led them to Cambodia.
Cambodian authorities carried out their own investigation and located Midgley in a bar in Siem Reap, where he was arrested.
Detectives from North Yorkshire flew to Cambodia at the weekend to arrange his handover from local police.
The Recorder of York, Judge Paul Batty, QC, said: “This is the most serious breach of bail this court has seen and I have no choice for it to be one of the maximum.
“You were arrested while drinking in a bar in Cambodia and I guess you had to plead guilty to that [breaching bail].
“But I expect that if you had not been arrested that you would still be in that bar.”
The court heard that Midgley had used his role as a horse riding instructor to carry out the sexual abuse.
Addressing Midgley, Judge Batty said: “Parents had trusted you to look after their children where you gave them horse riding lessons.
“But you didn’t - you sexually abused them and you were found guilty.”
Speaking about Midgley’s disregard for bail, Judge Batty added: “This was a cynical disregard to breaching bail. It was callous disregard.”
The court heard Midgley had fled his trial because as a first time offender could not live with the consequences of his actions.
Defending Midgley, Gerald Hendron, said: “He had no previous convictions. This was not a breach of bail of a hardened criminal.”
Midgley, who was wearing a bright blue and pink polo shirt and had a receding pony tail, muttered “thanks” after hearing his fate.
Following the sentencing, Detective Constable Vicki Hildred, who led the original investigation, said Midgley’s decision to abscond added to the trauma he had already inflicted on his victims.
She said: “These young people were subjected to giving evidence at Midgley’s trial in his absence, when he chose to flee the country.
“Without their bravery, he would never have been brought to justice. He abused his position as a horse riding instructor, betraying the trust of these children and their families.
“This was a protracted investigation that took a number of years to bring to trial. Even then, Midgley continued to deny all his offending.
“He has evaded capture for over 18 months but I hope that his sentence today offers some closure for these young people.”