A SERIAL child abuser has avoided all punishment – because he is unfit to stand trial.
There were gasps from the public gallery as a crown court judge said he had no option but to give predatory paedophile Edgar Wallace an absolute discharge.
His co-defendant, Anthony William Howard, of Chapel Road, Mortimer, was convicted of one count of indecency with a child and will be sentenced at a later date.
In Wallace’s case, Reading Crown Court heard that he was suffering from senile dementia and had been deemed medically unfit to plead or stand trial.
Instead, there was a ‘trial of the facts’, following which the 82-year-old, who lives with his carer in Jennets Hill, Standford Dingley, was found to have committed multiple offences of indecent assault and indecency with a child.
He was cleared of one charge of attempted rape and another of indecent assault.
All the offences were committed in West Berkshire between 1954 and 1957.
Judge Ian Grainger said of Wallace: “It’s accepted that he is no longer legally responsible for his actions.
“But the number of victims in this case shows there’s a real risk that the urges that motivated him in the past might continue to lead him to commit offences against children.”
He therefore made Wallace subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order, which would allow police to remove him from areas of risk, such as the vicinity of a schoo,l and which prevents him from having unsupervised contact with children.
The court heard statements from some of Wallace’s victims in which they outlined the devastating effect his abuse had on their lives.
Judge Grainger indicated that, had he been fit to stand trial, he would have received a “significant” sentence.
The court heard that Wallace, a former lorry driver and mechanic, has previously been jailed for other sexual offences against children.
Steve Molloy, representing Wallace, who did not attend the hearing, said: “It may be of some comfort to some to know that he had an unpleasant time of it in prison.
“He suffered degradation, as sometimes happens to those convicted of sexual offences against children.
“He had food and liquids thrown over him and was assaulted, elderly as he was.
“Some may feel those were his just deserts, as it were.”
Judge Grainger said: “This was a difficult and distressing case.
“But I must resist the temptation to do something just to be seen to be doing something.
“Having reflected on it carefully, I’ve reached the firm view that, despite the shocking nature of these historical offences – he was a serial abuser of children – it is not sensible to make him subject to a supervision order.”
He added that he would instead give Wallace an absolute discharge.
The Sexual Harm Prevention Order will last indefinitely.
His co-defendant, 66-year-old former garage mechanic and stock car racer Howard, was cleared of one count of indecency with a child but convicted of another.
The charges relate to incidents in the 1970s.
Howard, who was brought up in Pangbourne and ran Tony Howard’s Garage next to his present home, was released on conditional bail while pre-sentence reports are prepared.