A FORMER lollipop man who used his sweet shop to lure and sexually abuse eight young girls was described by police today as a “determined” and “predatory” paedophile.
Ian Dennis Middleton, aged 52, has been jailed for seven years by a judge at Sheffield Crown Court after he admitted sexually assaulting the girls - aged between eight and 15 - when they went behind his shop counter to choose sweets.
The family man ran Waddies General Store on Green Road, Penistone, Barnsley, with his wife.
The abuse came to light only when a 12-year-old girl showed her friend’s mother a bra, thong and suspenders which Middleton had bought for her last Valentine’s Day.
He also sent her messages on Facebook and texted her referring to himself as her boyfriend, and telling her he wished she was in bed with him.
Jailing him - and banning him from being alone with children for life - Judge Simon Lawler QC told Middleton: “Over a period of two years you sexually abused a total of eight young girls at your shop.
“The abuse against some of them was persistent, against others was spasmodic, but your perverted conduct for your own sexual gratification to fulfil your fantasies involved a gross abuse of trust of each girl.
“Their parents placed trust in you. You knew some, if not all, of them. Some of those parents have feelings of responsibility for these matters - they should not. The responsibility is yours and yours alone.
“You took advantage of your business as a front for what you did. You bought the girls items as presents and, I suspect, encouragement.
“There was grooming and a degree of coercive conduct and warnings ‘not to tell’.”
Sarah Wright, prosecuting, told the court: “The eight complainants are girls aged between eight and 15 who were touched sexually in a number of ways when they visited the defendant’s sweet shop in Penistone.
“The shop was very popular with local children who would visit to buy sweets without their parents - obviously they trusted the defendant with their children.” Miss Wright said Middleton had plied two of his victims, aged 12 and 10, with hot chocolate, before inviting them upstairs to the living quarters where he pushed them both on to a bed to assault them.
He would kiss and touch his victims when they went behind the counter to chose sweets - and was caught doing so on CCTV. The girls told police they “didn’t dare” tell.
Middleton’s actions had a big impact on the girls’ lives and those of their families. Miss Wright said there had been ‘marked changes’ in the girls’ behaviour and they had suffered anxiety and stress.
Michael Rawlinson, defending, said Middleton - who appeared in court in a wheelchair - accepted he had a problem and needed help. Afterwards Det Ch Insp Sean Middleton said: “Ian Middleton is a determined and predatory paedophile who used his position as a shopkeeper in a small and rural community to identify and abuse his victims. He was very active in the community and regarded as a trusted family man.”
Middleton’s role as a lollipop man pre-dated the offences. He once said of his role: “I love the kids to bits and they love me. Every time we break up I take little bags of sweets for them and put a Father Christmas outfit on.”
He admitted 16 counts - 14 of sexually assaulting a child under 13, and two of sexual activity with children aged 13 and 15. Four further offences were ordered to lie on file.
Middleton was told to sign the sex offenders’ register and was made the subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order banning him from unsupervised contact with children for life.