County Durham Dad Jailed For Sexual Offences

18 December 2017, 16:22 | Updated: 18 December 2017, 16:24

James Swan

A disgraced businessman from County Durham who was cleared exactly eight years ago of sexual offences against a teenager has been jailed for five years for attacks on two young victims.

Photography business owner James Swan, 46, groomed a 13-year-old over several years and also attacked an 18-year-old, pinning her against a wall at the foot of his stairs.

The married father of three daughters, who is said to be well-known in Weardale, lost his business after he admitted the offences which date back to the 2000s.

On December 18 2009, Swan was cleared by a jury at Teesside Crown Court of sexually assaulting a teenager.

Giving evidence at the time, she had claimed Swan said he was turned on by his wife's alleged infidelity, but the court had been told he had a strong marriage.

When two further complainants came forward last year, police seized his computer and found evidence that he was a "convincing liar", said Richard Bennett, prosecuting.

Officers also discovered thousands of MSN messages, many of them highly sexualised, between him and the 13-year-old.

Judge Stephen Ashurst said the content of the messages was "disgusting and inappropriate".

Included in them were his thoughts that he was turned on by thinking of his wife with other men.

The judge said: "Whilst it many well be in the digital age that messages between adult sexual partners may become very explicit, I cannot ignore the fact you were exchanging these messages with a very young girl.

"Where you thought this 'relationship', for want of a better word, would end up, goodness only knows."

Eight years on, Swan was sentenced at the same court after he admitted sexual assault, causing a sexual act without consent and two counts of sexual activity with a child.

Mr Bennett said Swan attacked the 18-year-old in his home in the remote village of Rookhope when his wife was out.

The teenager believed she was going to be raped and the assault only stopped when his wife rang and left an answerphone message to say she was on her way back.

The whole incident left his victim "badly frightened", the court heard.

Swan went on to groom his second victim for years with sexualised messages, flattering the girl with attention from what the prosecution said was a "well-spoken handsome man".

He would perform massages on her, including her feet, and tell her how aroused he was.

Mr Bennett said: "The sexual grooming went on for page after page and month after month.

"It was not encouraged initially but it was grooming that ensured she would keep chatting to him."

Swan also encouraged her to take naked photos of him, Mr Bennett said.

Jamie Hill QC, defending, said Swan and his family were well-known in Weardale.

He said: "Not only has he brought extreme embarrassment to himself, but also to the good name of his family, and for that he is deeply regretful."

Swan lost his business when he was charged and he has had to rely on the goodwill of his family since then, Mr Hill said.

He has left the family home and will be unable to work as a photographer in the future, the court heard.

Swan, jailed for five years, has been placed on the Sex Offenders' Register and will be subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for 10 years.

The judge said Swan's offending had a profound effect on his victims going into adulthood and he had shown little understanding of the harm caused.