A terminal cancer sufferer, who admitted indecently assaulting a vulnerable teenager, was freed on a suspended three-year jail term as “an act of mercy”.
Belfast Deputy Recorder, Judge Corinne Philpott QC, told 70-year-old Herbert Stanley Crowe, from Crosby Street, Belfast, his was an exceptional case and that the court could impose a lesser sentence than would otherwise be appropriate.
“There is no doubt he has a serious medical condition. There is no doubt this is an exceptional case, although a case where his offending has been significant and an added aggravating factor that he took advantage of this 17-year-old girl with learning difficulties when she was upset,” said the Crown Court judge.
She added: “Nevertheless if he goes into custody now it will be at a very crucial time of treatment ... for a man who had not got long to live.”
Judge Philpott said that since the offences in May 2008, Crowe was subsequently diagnosed with cancer, and although the case was adjourned while he underwent treatment, treatment which appeared successful, his condition has spread and worsened.
“Fate appears to have dealt him another blow,” said the judge, who added that “in reality the decision of the court in the general scheme of things is somewhat irrelevant ... I do not think it is appropriate to give him an immediate custodial sentence”.
The judge said medical reports indicated that there is no curable operation open to Crowe and that other treatments available to him will only alleviate his conditon, and provide him with some more limited time. However, such treatment would not be available to him in prison.
Judge Philpott said that while Crowe had shown little remorse, and had tried to minimise his wrongdoing, his guilty pleas had greatly assisted his victim, a young girl who was “undoubtedly traumatised and upset by this incident”.
Crowe, whose jail term was suspended for three years, was also put on the Sex Offenders’ Register for the rest of his expected short life, and barred from working with children or vulnerable adults.