An 88-year-old Pevensey man who denied historic sexual offences against two girls under the age of 13 had the offences proved against him in a trial of fact after he was deemed unfit to stand trial in person because of ill health, police have said.
At Lewes Crown Court on Tuesday (November 15) a jury found that Norman Askew had raped and indecently assaulted girls under the age of 13, Sussex Police said.
At the conclusion of the hearing, His Honour Judge Charles Kemp ruled that Askew, of High Street, should receive an absolute discharge.
Following the trial, Detective Constable Amy Green, of Sussex Police, said, “This has been a particularly difficult and sensitive case for a number of reasons.
“I would like to extend enormous thanks and gratitude to the prosecution witnesses who showed great patience and understanding over the course of the five years that it took to bring this case to trial.
“While to some extent I am disappointed that the court was unable to impose a sentence that reflected the severity of the matter, I do feel it was an important exercise for the evidence to be heard and for a jury to reach verdicts for these extremely serious acts.
“I hope that the verdicts will provide Askew’s victims with some solace, as it demonstrates that their compelling and truthful accounts have been believed beyond any doubt.
“This case has been somewhat unusual because of the court’s ruling that the defendant was unfit to participate in the trial. In my eyes, however, it was still critical for the case to be heard, even though it meant that any meaningful sentence could not be imposed.
“Both Sussex Police and the Crown Prosecution Service are committed to pursuing justice - especially for offences of this nature and where victims are vulnerable - and this investigation has shown how important it is for the criminal justice process to be followed, even in circumstances as unusual as these.”
Under the law, a trial of facts may take place once a court has determined that the defendant is subject to a disability that prevents their trial progressing.
In this type of trial the truth of the allegations against the defendant, as opposed to their guilt or innocence of a crime, is to be determined.
If the jury finds the offences proved, the court’s options are to order an absolute discharge, a supervision order, or a hospital order (with or without a restriction order).
The trial is not a criminal trial to determine guilt or otherwise, so the defendant cannot receive a prison sentence.