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Paul Bickerstaff

St Austell

Devout Christian jailed for oral sex with underage teenage girl

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A former Sunday school teacher and devout Christian has been jailed after he admitted performing oral sex on an underage girl.

A court heard 47-year-old Paul Bickerstaff groomed the teenager for sexual acts back at his home while his wife was out at work.

This included showering naked before her, inviting her into his bed, touching and kissing her and oral sex.

The court heard how the man, a member of a Christian church in Cornwall, said afterwards to his pastor that he “had sinned and had been crying out to our lord for forgiveness.”

Appearing for sentence at Truro Crown Court on Tuesday was Paul Stephen Bickerstaff, of Bownder Vean, Bethel, St Austell.

He had previously pleaded guilty to three charges of sexual touching of a child, which happened last year. The girl cannot be identified due to her age and as the victim of a sexual offence.

Piers Norsworthy, prosecuting, said Bickerstaff told the teenager that they were soul mates and complimented her on her hair and appearance. He said Bickerstaff then sexually assaulted the girl at his home.

“He took her in his arms and lifted her off the sofa,” he said. “He put her down but grabbed her by the thighs and steered her towards his bedroom. She got into his bed and he, naked, got into bed with her.

“He asked her about sexual preferences and they began to kiss. She stopped and pushed him away. He then undid her bra.”

Mr Norsworthy said the girl asked him three times to stop, which he did initially but then continued each time.

“He did perform oral sex on her, which lasted between five and ten minutes.” he added.

On another occasion, Bickerstaff kissed the girl after they climbed to the top of the beauty spot Roche Rock.

Afterwards, the girl told her parents what had happened and Bickerstaff confessed to his pastor. Mr Norsworthy said Bickerstaff had previously worked as a Sunday school teacher and was now employed as a gardener.

In her personal impact statement, the girl said she felt “dirty and stupid” about what had happened, which had affected her self-confidence. She said: “I couldn’t bear it any more but I did not want to talk to the police. I felt, and still feel, guilty about what happened – guilty at being manipulated again and again.”

Barry Hilliard, representing Bickerstaff, said his client had a troubled upbringing, being the victim of physical and emotional abuse as a child. He said Bickerstaff left home at 18 and joined the army for three years, where he served in Northern Ireland.

“More recently, he had found comfort in the church and found his wife through the church,” he added.

Bickerstaff had been having troubles in his marriage at the time of the offence and his mental health had been affected, he said.

“When he looks back at what he’s done, at the time he thought there was a connection between himself and the child,” he said. “Now he can see it was all in his head. He looks at what he’s done and just can’t understand it.”

Mr Hilliard said Bickerstaff, of previous good character, was being supported by his wife and his church, and handed in to the court letters of reference.

Crediting Bickerstaff for his honesty, Judge Robert Linford said to him: “I acknowledge that many people in your position would have denied these offences or said nothing. You did not. You confessed to what you had done and you expressed remorse and apology. I’ve read references from people who speak highly of you and cannot believe you acted in the way you did.”

However, he said the offences were so serious that an immediate custodial sentence could not be overlooked.

Bickerstaff was jailed for two years and will serve half that time before being eligible for release.

He will also be registered as a sex offender and was made the subject of sexual harm prevention order for ten years.