Two-month jail sentence for pensioner who breached sex offenders register

Court hammer

Court hammer

A retired vice principal and convicted pervert who breached the sex offenders register has been sentenced to two months in jail.

Francis Noel Stroud (71) was handed the jail term at Lisburn Magistrates Court, where he appeared via video link from prison. However, he will be freed later today (Monday, February 6) because of time served on remand.

Stroud, originally from the Dunmurry area but now of no fixed abode, had entered guilty pleas to two breaches of the sex offenders register on November 7 last year in that he failed to notify police of a change in circumstances and failed to make an annual report of his name, address and date of birth.

The court heard how Stroud, who was a maths teacher and vice principal at Hunter House College, was evicted for non-payment of rent and had moved to a Belfast hostel but failed to tell police.

He should have informed them of any change of circumstance within three days, but instead it was his probation officer who informed police on the fifth day.

In October 2014 Stroud walked free from court with a two year probation order after an allegation of sexual assault was replaced by an harassment offence.

Originally charged with sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl on dates between February 1 and April 20, 2011, Stroud instead pleaded guilty to harassing the girl.

Prosecuting lawyer Ian Tannahill told the court at that time how the schoolgirl’s father arranged for Stroud to privately tutor his daughter for her maths GCSE.

However within weeks Stroud had sent her an inappropriate “chain” of text messages which “alarmed” the girl, one of which commented on the aroma of her perfume.

The lawyer said that as well as inappropriate comments, Stroud would “rub the injured party’s leg,” adding that his behaviour “contributed to her distress”.

Arrested and interviewed, Stroud admitted the text messages “were not appropriate in the context of the relationship” and that he would touch her leg when she answered a question correctly by way of encouragement.

However as Craigavon Crown Court heard, it’s not the first time that the behaviour of Stroud has been called into question.

Ordering the pensioner to follow probation instructions to the letter or face jail, Judge Patrick Lynch QC warned Stroud that the authorities had reopened investigations into his dealings with other pupils he taught privately.

Imposing the two year probation order, Judge Lynch told Stroud he had “breached the trust” which the girl’s father and family had placed in him but that he had landed himself in court by “the sheer stupidity” of his actions.

The judge revealed that Stroud had been sacked from his previous job “by virtue of a similar allegation which is the subject of further enquiry”.

“You must be aware of the potentially grave consequences of misconduct of this type,” the judge warned Stroud. “You must be aware as a teacher of the potential distress of this type of conduct to young persons”.

The breaches of the sex offenders register came a little under two weeks before Stroud escaped going to prison with a suspended jail term but was ordered to pay his victim £5,000 in compensation.

Stroud had confessed to indecently assaulting the female on a date unknown between September 1 and December 31, 1994.

At the time of that offence Stroud was a vice principal of the south Belfast school.

As well as the nine month jail term, which was suspended for three years, Stroud was ordered to remain on the police sex offenders register for the next ten years.

In court today (Monday) Stroud’s defence barrister said that while he did not have any fixed address to go to when freed, “at one stage the police told him that even if he’s sleeping rough or on a park bench, that’s fine as long as he tells police.”

He added that apart from the current offences, “there’s never been a difficulty with him complying” with the register.

District Judge Rosie Watters said she believed the best way forward was a “short custodial sentence.”