A firefighter who got a 12-year-old girl to perform a sex act on him when he was 20 years old was spared a jail sentence yesterday.
Magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo said Joshua Crockwell “ought to have known that she was off limits. You were old enough to know that.”
However, he said it was a case where the defendant did not “prey” on the victim and “this young girl had to be protected from herself”.
Crockwell is well known as a member of the Robin Hood football team. Magistrates’ Court heard from prosecutor Tawana Tannock that he first approached the victim when she was playing outside her home with friends.
“His friends told him to leave the little children alone,” explained Ms Tannock.
However, he did not, and got to know the girl, who cannot be identified for legal reasons.
They exchanged text messages and in June 2010, he arranged to meet her in the grounds of a school. He then caused her to attempt to perform oral sex on him twice.
According to the prosecutor, Crockwell pushed his penis into her mouth and pushed her head down during the incident.
The crime came to light after the girl told her family what had happened, and they contacted the police.
“The psychological and emotional impact on the complainant and her family is extremely serious and unfortunate,” said Ms Tannock, asking for a prison sentence of 15 months to be imposed.
“Parents and the community must be protected from those who prey on young people.”
Crockwell, now 22, from Pembroke, denied a charge of sexually exploiting the girl but was convicted by Magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo after a trial. The victim was called as a witness for the prosecution during the case.
Ms Tannock said a pre-sentence report indicated that Crockwell blamed the victim for what occurred.
Defence lawyer Elizabeth successfully argued for Crockwell to receive a suspended sentence rather than imprisonment. She said he has learned his lesson, and the report described him as being at low risk of reoffending.
“This was not a defendant who deliberately sought this young girl out,” she suggested. “He certainly maintains that he did not sexually assault, or force anyone to participate in a sexual act.”
Crockwell said: “I just would like to apologise to the girl and her family for putting them through all that, and to my family for the pain and embarrassment it caused. I realise my actions were wrong and I was reckless.”
Sentencing him to a 15 month sentence, suspended for two years, Mr Tokunbo said: “I think you’re remorseful. I think it [the case] was a learning experience for you.”
He continued: “I don’t think you preyed upon her. I don’t think you pursued her as such.
“I don’t think as the Crown suggests that society needs to be protected from you as a person who preys on young people. I don’t know that you communicated with her for a sexual purpose. I didn’t find that.”
He added: “You and the young lady had an attraction to each other and I don’t think this was a case where you lured her off. You were both interested in each other.”
However, the Magistrate said: “I have to take into consideration the fact that the legislature considers this to be a very serious offence.
“Young girls have to be protected from young men who would prey on them; and young men who wouldn’t prey on them but young ladies who have to be protected from themselves; and this young girl had to be protected from herself.”
He went on to tell Crockwell: “Even though there was some attempt of physical contact, given the ages between you and the young lady, I would put it on a scale of one to ten at the lower end, at about a four, but nonetheless it’s serious and you ought to have known better.”
In addition to the suspended sentence, Crockwell must spend two years on probation, with conditions set out in the pre sentence report, which recommended a sexual offenders’ treatment programme.
According to the prosecutor, Crockwell was suspended from his job pending the outcome of the case.
Ms Christopher said it remains to be seen what will transpire in terms of Crockwell’s employment with the fire service.
Asked if Crockwell would lose his job, Chief Fire Officer Vincent Hollinsid replied: “The Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service does not comment on internal staffing matters.
“This will be handled in accordance with established practice pursuant to the code of conduct and conditions of employment for public officers. No further comment will be made by the BFRS regarding this matter.”