International manhunt for paedophile cadet leader from Plymouth
AN INTERNATIONAL manhunt has been launched for a paedophile cadet sergeant from Plymouth who has fled the country after abusing girls in the organisation.
Sgt James Reading was found guilty in his absence of groping the girls while on night exercises and at illegal under-age drinking parties.
Reading, aged 35, of St Judes, was jailed for 10 years at Exeter Crown Court as police resumed the search for the fugitive, who has been on the run since jumping bail in June.
His victims were members of the organisation elsewhere in the South West.
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A judge said it was beyond belief that Reading was able to abuse the girls in what is supposed to be a disciplined service.
Reading was able to become an NCO and have a responsible position despite having previous convictions for a domestic assault dating back to 2001 and theft and criminal damage in 1998.
He abused one girl during a sleep-over party he organised and assaulted another after telling her she may be promoted if she went on night exercises with him.
He plied his victims with alcohol at the unofficial parties and hid his activities by putting bin bags over the windows as makeshift curtains.
He offered one girl £50 to touch her chest and was caught red handed when one female cadet burst in to find him with a topless, terrified and hysterical girl.
Reading denied eight offences of sexual activity with a child or inciting a child to take part in sexual activity but was found guilty.
He was cleared of sexually assaulting another girl after the jury heard he may have believed she consented. He was also cleared of an unrelated charge of raping another woman.
He was jailed for 10 years with a four-year extended licence and banned from having unsupervised contact with children indefinitely.
Judge Erik Salomonsen said that the cadet organisation "fulfils an important role in the community and parents must know they can rely on them to look after their children.
"It goes without saying this applies to their moral as well as their physical welfare and the highest standards should have been adhered to in relation to alcohol and the separation of the sexes during overnight activities.
"Adults must set an example and it is beyond belief that an NCO in such an organisation should be able to put himself in a position to abuse.
"He worked himself into a position of responsibility well beyond his abilities. He had an unhealthy interest in sex with young girls and was determined to satisfy himself in a wholly selfish way regardless of the views of those around him.
"In my judgment he is a dangerous man, particularly when in drink and in a position of responsibility with access to children."
After the case Detective Constable Chris Amey said the hunt for Reading would go on in this country and abroad.
He said: "We have already made extensive inquiries and we may consider an appeal on Crimewatch. We have some evidence he has gone to France and we may involve international agencies."
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence confirmed that a Criminal Records Bureau check had been carried out in his case and that procedures are being reviewed.
She said that the welfare and safety of cadets and volunteers were of paramount importance and the service had "extremely stringent procedures in place, including Criminal Records Bureau Enhanced (CRB) checks, to vet prospective adult volunteers that ensure as far as possible this is maintained".
"We can confirm a CRB check was undertaken on this occasion. Having a criminal record will not necessarily bar someone from volunteering. It depends on the circumstances and background of the offence, or any information revealed."
The spokeswoman said that the issue of safeguarding children was taken seriously and that there were staff dedicated to safeguarding the welfare of cadets.
"Now this case has concluded an assessment will be made to determine if a further inquiry is required."
She added that matters of this nature were taken "very seriously" and convictions of such criminal acts were "considered incompatible with the core values and ethos" of the organisation.
She added: "An individual subject to such allegations will be suspended without prejudice pending the outcome of any investigation."
THE HERALD SAYS:
JAMES Reading's disgusting crimes have been revealed.
He was a sergeant in a cadet force and entrusted with the care of young people.
He abused that trust in the most despicable way by plying young girl cadets with alcohol, groping them and even offering one money to take off her top.
Reading's depravity is only matched by his cowardice. He went on the run after he was unmasked as a paedophile and police are now hunting for him so he can start his 10-year jail sentence.
His crimes are shocking. But so too is the fact that this 35-year-old man with a conviction for domestic violence, theft and criminal damage was given any sort of position in a cadet force with responsibility for the wellbeing of children.
The Ministry of Defence spokesman said a Criminal Record Bureau check had been conducted on Reading before he was allowed to join the cadets. But they said having a criminal record does not automatically disqualify someone from volunteering.
That is fair enough – there are some great youth mentors who can help others learn from their own mistakes. But Reading's criminal past did not consist of a few minor indiscretions – it included violence and dishonesty. There will not be a parent in our city today who would not be alarmed at the prospect of their child being placed in the care of such an individual.
And not only is Reading a pervert and a coward but he has also betrayed all of those honourable, dedicated people who lead cadet groups across our region with integrity and selflessness. We have reason to be very grateful to all those unsung heroes who head out on cold, dark nights every week to help nurture a new generation of upstanding young adults through the good work of the cadets. It would be a crying shame if any of those cadet leaders were tarred with the same brush as Reading.
However, this case raises serious questions over the vetting procedures for the cadet forces which must be answered quickly and honestly.