FURY erupted last night as it emerged a paedophile police sergeant was allowed to keep his job and carry on abusing a girl.
This was despite being caught taking indecent photographs of children eight years earlier.
Nick Lidstone, 55, admitted a series of rapes and child sex attacks relating to one victim when he appeared in court last month.
The victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, reported her years of abuse – which culminated in being raped as an adult – earlier this year.
Yesterday it emerged Lidstone, a Cambridgeshire police officer, was arrested eight years ago for taking indecent pictures of children with a spy camera in a branch of Tesco in Royston, Hertfordshire.
He was given a conditional discharge after pleading guilty to a minor public order offence at North and East Hertfordshire Magistrates’ Court in 2005. Because he was not charged with a sexual offence, his name was not placed on the sex offenders’ register.
The judge at Norwich Crown Court yesterday questioned how Lidstone remained in the force.
And children’s charities were outraged at the revelation of his criminal paedophile activity.
Jon Brown, who heads the NSPCC’s programmes for tackling sexual abuse said: “It seems quite incredible that this officer wasn’t charged first time around with a sexual offence. If he had been it’s possible these later, more serious crimes, could have been stopped sooner or even prevented in the first place.
“The tragedy is that a young girl has suffered terribly at this man’s hands when he should not have been allowed the freedom to act in this appalling way.
“This underlines the importance of taking all sex offences extremely seriously and making sure the right course of action is followed through. It would only be right for the police authority to take a look at how he came to be charged with a minor offence all those years ago and to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
Marilyn Hawes, founder of Enough Abuse UK, said: ”We must be more aware that paedophiles can be found in any organisation, including the police.
“These people are very adept and very plausible. The warning signs must not be ignored by colleagues.”
Norwich Crown Court heard LIdstone’s abuse of the girl escalated and all of the most serious attacks happened after his earlier offence.
Sentencing him to 14-and-a-half years for the latest offences, Judge Anthony Bate said he had used his victim as a “sexual toy”.
He placed Lidstone on the sex offenders’ register for life.
He added: “You have one previous conviction which has two worrying aspects: firstly, the nature of the offence and secondly, the fact you were convicted under public order legislation when quite clearly these were serious sexual offences.
“You had armed yourself with a covert camera and were found taking pictures of children. Why on earth you were not charged under the sexual offences act, I do not know.
“Whoever took that decision, it allowed you to carry on as a police officer.”
The judge added that because he was convicted of a public order offence, nobody had looked more closely at Lidstone’s relationship with children and a chance to detect his abuse was missed.
Despite undergoing therapy to address his sexual deviancy, Lidstone carried on abusing his victim who suffered significant psychological harm.
Judge Bate said that Lidstone’s apparent cooperation with therapy showed how he was able to “manipulate experts” into believing he had an ordinary sex life.
It was not until last month when he admitted the abuse that he was dismissed from his role at the force’s headquarters after 30 years of service.
Prosecutor Andrew Shaw said the pictures taken in 2005 were of “young children” and there was some doubt over whether the worst of the images were found.
Lidstone, from Heslerton Way, Barrington, Cambridgeshire, pleaded guilty to 13 offences – including three counts of rape, three counts of indecency with a child, various sexual assaults and taking an indecent photograph of a child – in November this year. He denied six other counts, which were left to lie on file.
Mr Shaw told the court Lidstone started grooming the girl when she was nine. He would expose himself to her, show her pornography and take indecent photographs.
“This was serious sexual assault,” Mr Shaw said. “The abuse was more or less continuous and culminated in rape when she was a young adult.”
One witness who knew the victim described how her life had been “ruined”.
Speaking after Lidstone was dismissed last month, Deputy Chief Constable Alec Wood said: “This was an appalling crime where the victim was put through a horrendous ordeal over a prolonged period.”
Director of children’s charity Kidscape Claude Knights said: “There are many distressing aspects to this case, not least the fact that the sex offences against children were committed by a person employed to protect the community and uphold the law.
“This breach of trust strikes a blow at the stability of society.
“Added to this it is very regrettable that the danger that this individual posed to children was not recognised eight years ago when his behaviour rang alarm bells.
“An appropriate sentence at that stage would have prevented his victims from suffering the trauma of sexual abuse and its long-term consequences.
“The safeguarding of children and vulnerable young people depends on the thorough examination of cases which suggest predatory inclinations.”