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Former member of staff at Upminster’s Stubbers Adventure centre has sentencing for sexual offence postponed

PUBLISHED: 14:43 23 May 2019 | UPDATED: 14:43 23 May 2019

A 42-year-old man from Ockendon today (Thursday, May 23) at Snaresbrook Crown Court had his sentencing for a sexual offence postponed because of an error in his initial charge. Picture: Ken Mears

A 42-year-old man from Ockendon today (Thursday, May 23) at Snaresbrook Crown Court had his sentencing for a sexual offence postponed because of an error in his initial charge. Picture: Ken Mears

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A former member of staff at Stubbers Adventure Centre in Upminster who was charged with a sexual offence has had his sentencing postponed due to an error with his initial charge.

Christopher Luck, of Annalee Gardens, South Ockendon previously pleaded guilty - at Barkingside Magistrates' Court on Monday, April 8 - to engaging in sexual communications with a child and possession of a Class B drug (cannabis).

This followed his arrest on Saturday, April 6 in Ockendon Road, Upminster and subsequent charge the next day.

However, today (Thursday, May 23) at Snaresbrook Crown Court, Shirley Bernstein who is prosecuting the case, revealed that Mr Luck's initial charge was incorrect.

Mr Luck, 42, did not engage in sexual communication with a 13-year-old child, but an undercover police officer who was pretending to be an underage child.

Therefore his charge has been amended to that of attempted sexual communication with a child.

Judge Gerard Pounder told the court: "This is an application by the crown to correct an error which has unfortunately crept into the system.

"What often happens now and is probably more prevalent, is that people pretend to be a child in order to bring these matters out into the open, but when that happens, the person is over the age of 16 and it's impossible to commit the full offence."

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Judge Pounder served as a district judge for the purpose of hearing the prosecution's application for the lesser charge of attempted sexual communication with a child, to be put forward.

Luck pleaded guilty to the new charge and he will sentenced at the same court on Friday, July 5.

A spokesman from the activity centre in Ockendon Road, Upminster, said: "We were shocked and saddened to learn that a member of staff was arrested on Saturday 6th April and has since pleaded guilty to charges of online sexual contact with a child and possession of Class B drugs (cannabis).

"We will continue to liaise with police as required but stress that these charges relate to crimes committed outside of work and we have no information to suggest that any young people connected to our Centre were in anyway involved.

"The member of staff was immediately suspended pending an investigation, in line with proper HR procedures, has since been dismissed on grounds of Gross Misconduct, and of course will not be allowed back on site."

He continued: "We understand that our customers and the local community with whom we work closely will be as shocked as we are and have natural concerns. We would like to reassure them that safeguarding young people is and always will be our absolute priority.

"We follow national 'safer recruitment' guidelines that include Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service checks as part of this process, along with regular safeguarding training which this individual had received.

"Furthermore, all the correct recruitment processes were in place.

"Regardless of how thorough and compliant we have been, our Designated Safeguarding Lead will still conduct a safeguarding review to see if our procedures can be tightened even further.

"If there is any more that we can legally do to check the background of staff to protect the young people we work with, then this will be done as a matter of urgency."

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