A pervert who attacked a nine-year-old girl after watching pornography of children and animals has been jailed for nine years.
Gary Cookson, 38, was convicted of sexual assault and possession of indecent and extreme images following a trial at Preston Crown Court.
It was heartbreaking having to sit and wait, knowing my children would have to go through being questioned and called liars all because of what he had done
In a harrowing victim impact statement, the girl’s dad – who can not be named for legal reasons – broke down in court as he told of the devastating impact of learning his nine-year-old daughter had been abused by the family friend.
He said: “It was heartbreaking having to sit and wait, knowing my children would have to go through being questioned and called liars all because of what he had done.”
Cookson, a former Highways Officer for Lancashire County Council, was cleared of charges of abusing the girl over a number of years but convicted of a serious sexual assault on her.
Chris Hudson, defending, described Cookson as an “inherently-decent but flawed” man who had started watching criminally inappropriate material due to loneliness.
He said: “In that context he committed this single assault on a young girl.
“He is a man whose moral compass had gone askew.”
A search of Cookson’s home in Grasmere Road, Knott End, following his arrest uncovered computer equipment containing abuse images of children and a dog.
Richard Haworth, prosecuting, also told the court Cookson has a previous conviction for having sex with a girl under 16 when he was 25.
Judge Stuart Baker, sentencing, said: “The offence was committed quite brazenly in the presence of her mother when the girl was of such an age that she was embarrassed and did not know what to say or what to do.”
The girl’s dad said he was left feeling guilty that he had not been able to protect his children from Cookson and hoped his daughter – who had been attacked – and another child in the family were able to forget about their ordeal in time.
He said he and their mother had become protective and restrict their freedom in terms of playing out and accessing the internet.
He said: “What he did to my children and family will stay with me forever. I don’t want to see him again and I hope my children never have to go through anything like that again.
“This will never leave my life. I can only hope my children can forget about this over time as I know I never will.”
Speaking after the sentence, Det Con Ian Wright from the Lancashire Police Public Protection Unit said: “Cookson is clearly a dangerous individual and I welcome the sentence.
“The possession of these vile images and the physical abuse of a young child is frankly disgusting.
“Protecting the public, especially children, from harm and abuse is an absolute priority for Lancashire Constabulary and with our partners we will continue to proactively target offenders who use the internet to view or exchange indecent images of children and help safeguard those children who have become, or are at risk of becoming, victims.
“I would urge anyone who feels they may have been the victim of abuse to come forward and contact us via 101 safe in the knowledge that they will be treated sensitively and professionally.”