Case delay sees Royal British Legion pervert walk free from court for breaching child sex offence order
A former Royal British Legion branch secretary with a history of child sex offences has avoided jail - because of a delay in his case.
William Northcote, from Wakefield, admitted breaching a sexual harm prevention order (SHPO) dating back to 2018, but a judge told him that the "inexplicable" three-year wait for his case to reach court meant he would avoid custody.
Northcote, 50, was convicted of multiple counts of downloading indecent images five years ago and was given a community order and the SHPO, designed to limit his internet use.
Leeds Crown Court was told that Northcote, of Warren Avenue, Portobello, contacted police himself in in April 2018 to say that he had logged onto a website that he did not know contained extreme images.
Police took away four of his devices but there was a delay in checking them. One of the officers in the case retired during that time.
When they were finally checked, it was discovered that Northcote had conducted two searches for abusive images.
Becky Jane, mitigating, said there was a "lack of sophistication" in Northcote's offending in that he called the police himself, knowing they would have checked his internet devices.
Ms Jane said he was trying to make positive changes to his life and planned to move to Scotland to be closer to family and find work.
The court heard Northcote is a veteran of the Army Reserve and was a volunteer branch secretary to the Royal British Legion in Wakefield until 2019. The branch has since folded.
He said: "It has taken a long time and why it has taken this long is beyond me, so you get the benefit from that because you have not committed an offence since."
Judge Marson told Northcote that had the case been brought swiftly before the courts, he would have given him a 12-month custodial sentence.
Instead, he handed him eight months' jail, suspended for two years.