An Eastbourne abuser who molested a young girl 30 years ago – and uniquely went on trial from his home via Skype as he is terminally ill and unfit to attend court – has been spared a jail sentence because he is dying.
Judge Patricia Lynch QC told Bryan Shipp, 79, he could normally have expected an eight-year sentence, but instead she imposed a two-year sentence suspended for two years as it was an ‘exceptional case’.
She had been told that Shipp could be sent to HMP Exeter which could cope with his medical requirements.
However, she said he would have to be held at Chelmsford Prison where they did not have similar facilities to Exeter while waiting to be transferred to Exeter and that if that happened he could die there.
Shipp, of Latimer Road, had denied eight offences of indecent assault against a girl under the age of 16 more than 30 years ago when he was living in Colchester – but he was convicted last month at Chelmsford Crown Court.
The judge said, “You are suffering from very severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). You require longterm oxygen therapy 24 hours a day. Your life expectancy is between six and 12 months at most.
“You require assistance for most of the activities of daily living. You require a [medical] team able to respond to the frequent exacerbations promptly. These may be life-threateningat any time given your poor lung function and physical reserve.
“Therefore, the situation I am dealing with is far more extreme.”
She said the authorities at Chelmsford Prison had reported to her they would not be able to cope with Shipp’s condition and it could take three weeks to transfer him to Exeter which did have the facilities and expertise to cater for elderly defendants in ill or terminal health.
“Your life expectancy is such, that to be perfectly blunt, you have very little time to live. I have to consider whether in all the circumstances this is a wholly exceptional case,” she said.
“Because your condition is so terminal I am of the view that by the time all the proper arrangements have been made it may be too late in any event.
“It’s not as an act of compassion. It’s not because I don’t think that these are serious offences which deserve a serious custodial sentence that I don’t pass an immediate custodial sentence.
“It’s because I am of the view, because your condition is so terminal and you are in such illhealth today, that this case is wholly exceptional and it’s not appropriate to send you to prison immediately.”
Frail-looking Shipp travelled to Chelmsford Crown Court in a private ambulance accompanied by two Southern Ambulance Services staff. He was late arriving because he experienced breathing difficulties en route.
He sat at the side of the court in a wheelchair connected to an oxygen cylinder attended by the medics.
During his trial, Shipp was linked to the hearing by Skype as he was too ill to attend and the victim gave evidence from another country where she now lives. The judge said Shipp had ruined the complainant’s life.
“These events left a mark on her which she carries for the rest of her days,” she said.
In her impact statement read to the court, the woman said that after the assaults happened she was embarrassed to tell her parents.
The jury failed to reach a decision on 11 other offences and the judge formally entered not guilty verdicts on those.