Sex offender dressed as schoolgirl and took runaway boys home

A convicted sex offender has been jailed after dressing up as a schoolgirl in order to talk to pupils, before taking two runaway boys back to his house and feeding them cigarettes and cider.

In 2019, Mark Nicholson was jailed for 18 months for child sex offences, and was made subject to a sexual harm prevention order for 10 years, but breached this twice when he carried out his most recent crimes.

Preston Crown Court heard how the first breach happened on November 3 last year, when the 55-year-old was spotted on Queen Victoria Road by three schoolgirls from Blessed Trinity College.

Kathryn Johnson, prosecuting, told the court: “The police received a call from the safeguarding lead at Blessed Trinity to say that three female children from the school, aged between 10 and 15, had seen a male sat outside on Queen Victoria Road dressed in a school uniform that matched theirs.

“He was wearing a white shirt, a tie, blazer, and a skirt, and had tried to engage in conversation with the girls, saying ‘Do you like my tie?’.

“He was arrested the following day at his home address and the school uniform was recovered by officers from his bedroom.

“The defendant was interviewed the same day and told police he didn’t speak to the girls but accepted that he had been wearing the uniform, saying that he wears it for comfort.”

The second breach, the court heard, came some six months later, in May, while Nicholson, of Queen Victoria Road in Burnley, was on bail for the November breach.

Ms Johnson continued: “On May 15, the police were contacted by an engage worker who reported that two children were missing from a residential care home in Blackburn.

“When the children returned, they said they had boarded a hospital shuttle bus and had gone from Blackburn to Burnley.

“They had met the defendant and asked if they could go back to his home, and he took them.

“While there they smoked cigarettes, and the defendant gave them a cup of cider.

“They stayed around an hour and then left and returned to Blackburn.”

Defending Nicholson, Anna Chestnutt said her client had been under the influence of alcohol and drugs when he donned the school uniform last November but admitted “his behaviour had no place, and he would not be repeating it”.

In respect of the offences in May, Ms Chestnutt said her client encountered the boys on a bus and it was them who spoke to him first.

She said: “Nothing sexual took place in the hour they spent at his home address.”

Jailing Nicholson – who has 22 convictions for 60 offences – for 16 months, Judge Stephen Unsworth KC said these were “worrying matters”.

He said: “This is a worrying picture that’s presented to the court and is extremely worrying for the parents and carers of these children.

“If there’s any repeat of this behaviour you can expect lengthier periods in prison – you must stay away from young people and must stop this behaviour.”

As well as 16 months in jail, another 10-year sexual harm prevention order was handed to Nicholson, with a specific clause banning him from wearing items of clothing pertaining to a girl’s school uniform in any place to which the public has access or from any private dwelling in view of any member of the public.

He was also ordered to sign the sex offenders register indefinitely.

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