Children’s services team manager from near Kenilworth caught taking part in sexual chat with what he believed to be a 13-year-old girl

He has lost his job and will be struck off the Social Services register - but he has been spared a jail sentence

Thursday, 11th March 2021, 2:52 pm

A covert police operation caught a children’s services team manager taking part in sexual chat with what he believed to be a 13-year-old girl.

But David Atkinson has not been jailed after pleading guilty at Warwick Crown Court to attempting to cause a child to watch a sexual act.

Atkinson (42), of Burton Green, near Kenilworth, who also admitted attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child, was sentenced to eight months jail suspended for two years.

David Atkinson.

He was also ordered to take part in a rehabilitation activity, to do 180 hours of unpaid work, to register as a sex offender for ten years, and to pay £500 costs.

Recorder Balraj Bhatia QC observed that as a team manager in Leicestershire County Council’s children’s services department, Atkinson ‘should have known better.’

Prosecutor Tim Sapwell said that in June 2019 Atkinson ‘began to engage in conversation on a chat platform set up by an undercover police officer.’

He made sexual remarks and asked her to swap naked photos with him.

The police then executed a warrant at his home where he was arrested, and they seized his phone and laptop which showed he had visited a porn site with references to teenagers.

But when he was interviewed Atkinson claimed he was on holiday at the time and had no knowledge of any of the activity and suggested his devices had been hacked, said Mr Sapwell.

He observed that through his employment, Atkinson would have known of the issues his activity could cause, and Recorder Bhatia commented: “He could have known better, and should have known better.”

Kevin Saunders, defending, said Atkinson had the support of his wife and mother, and a probation report assessed there was a low likelihood of him reoffending.

“His rehabilitation is best achieved by focussing his attention on his duties as a loving husband and father.”

Mr Saunders said Atkinson had worked as a case-handling social worker since 2009, and in 2015 was promoted to social work manager – but since his offences came to light he has terminated his employment.

“He acknowledges he can no longer work in this sector and will be struck off the Social Services register. That ought to be regarded as punishment in its own right.

“During his employment he was very able and did impart good to the children requiring the assistance of Social Services.

"Against the background of that employment and elevation to a senior role, the tragedy for this defendant is that any good he achieved will for ever more be viewed with cynicism.”

Sentencing Atkinson, Recorder Bhatia told him: “You are a man hitherto of positive good character.

“You had an extremely responsible job, and that job no doubt entailed work with families who required your assistance, families which no doubt had young children with emotional problems which required the assistance of your department.

“So you are well aware of the difficulties many young girls have in difficult family situations, and the trauma and distress they may have suffered.

“I accept what you did was out of character. It is also plain that you had your own difficulties which you have dealt with by a combination of prescription drugs, alcohol and cannabis.

“It is difficult to understand what it was that triggered you into committing the offences you now fall to be sentenced for.

“You have a young daughter. Imagine she is 13 years of age and subject to precisely these facts. You would expect that the court should take a harsh view in punishing that defendant.

“I accept this was an undercover officer and therefore no actual harm was perpetuated, but it is the intended harm I have to look at.

"I have to consider whether it should be an immediate custodial sentence or whether there are proper grounds on which to suspend that sentence.”