Former Uckfield councillor who asked teenage girl if she would 'play with him' is jailed

James Anderson appearing at Hove Crown Court today
James Anderson appearing at Hove Crown Court today

A ‘predatory’ Uckfield man who carried out a string of sexual offences against teenage girls while he was a town councillor has been jailed.

James Anderson, 34, sent flirtatious messages to three girls, including asking one of them: 'are you coming to play with me?'

Former town councillor James Anderson was jailed today for offences against three girls. Picture: Sussex Police

Former town councillor James Anderson was jailed today for offences against three girls. Picture: Sussex Police

When questioned by police he said the messages were ‘simply banter’ and denied any wrongdoing, the court heard.

Anderson, of Michelham Road, was suspended from Uckfield Town Council when the allegations came to light and has since resigned.

He was jailed for 32 months at Hove Crown Court today after pleading guilty to six sex offences on the day of trial.

The offences were: three counts of sexual activity with a child, two counts of sexual assault, and one count of causing a person to engage in a sexual activity without consent.

The sentencing took place at Hove Crown Court

The sentencing took place at Hove Crown Court

Prosecutor Amy Packham said: “The allegations that the defendant falls to be sentenced for relate to three young women.

“There was a significant age gap between them [and Anderson]. “

She told the court that Anderson was ‘initially very friendly’ with the girls but became overly familiar with them and ‘touched each of them ultimately in a sexual way’.

Anderson, a father of two young children, initially denied any offending when interviewed by police.

He sent one girl a message on Facebook asking ‘are you coming to play with me?’.

Miss Packham said the girl remained silent when Anderson touched her because she did not know how he would react if she told him to stop

In police interview he denied ever touching her sexually and described the flirtatious messages as ‘simply banter’, the court heard.

Miss Packham said: “When asked why she had not reported these matters to the police she said she had been scared about what would happen and she was ashamed at what had happened.”

Another victim talked to Anderson about problems in her life and he took advantage of her, the court heard.

Miss Packham said: “She confided in him that she had some mental health issues that she suffered with and she had difficulties at home.”

Rebecca Upton, defending Anderson, said that he was a man of previous good character and had no criminal convictions.

She continued: “He is a man who did charitable works and work for the community in which he lived.

“There is no wish on his part to repeat any of his behaviour.”

Miss Upton said there was ‘strong evidence’ that sending Anderson to jail would negatively impact others around him, particularly his wife and two young children.

“He is prepared to do the right thing. He is a remorseful man.”

Judge Jeremy Gold QC said: “It is a great shame to see a man like you of previous good character standing in a criminal dock with me needing to sentence you for serious sexual offences against youngsters.

“Sadly this case reveals a series of serious predatory sexual behaviour by you towards young teenaged girls.

“Your actions towards them have significantly affected their lives and they are struggling still with the consequences of your behaviour towards them.

“I have a duty to ensure that people in positions of responsibility have a very clear understanding that if they cross the boundary with young teenagers the consequences will be serious.”

Judge Gold gave Anderson credit for his guilty plea and jailed him for 32 months.

Note to readers: please be aware that victims of sexual offences are entitled to lifetime anonymity.

Care has been taken to ensure this article does not include any information that could identify any of the complainants involved.

This newspaper asks that similar care is taken in any comments on social media.