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Gardening enthusiast loitered outside primary school and breached sexual harm prevention order

PUBLISHED: 14:30 19 April 2019 | UPDATED: 10:35 20 April 2019

Gunton Woods, in Lowestoft. PHOTO: Google Maps.

Gunton Woods, in Lowestoft. PHOTO: Google Maps.

Archant

A horticultural enthusiast breached a sexual harm prevention order after being found loitering outside a Lowestoft primary school.

Peter Nigel Ashford, of Wellington Esplanade, Lowestoft, claimed he was showing a “complete stranger” flowers just metres from Gunton Primary School on January 30, but magistrates found him guilty of loitering outside the playground.

As a result of the SHPO, which had been imposed at Great Yarmouth Magistrates' Court three weeks earlier on January 9, the 66-year-old was banned from loitering within 20 metres of playgrounds, parks or designated play areas where children under 16 may be present.

PC Darren Benford-Brown, who had observed Ashford in the woods earlier in the day, was watching in plain clothes with a dog for cover.

He said: “I was tasked with being in the wooded area to see if he was breaching his SHPO. Gunton Woods is a large wooded area open to the public and used a lot by dog walkers. It backs on to the primary school.

“He was on the path near to the playground fence talking to a man who had a camera around his neck with a long lens. As soon as he saw us he appeared to say something to the man and they bent down and appeared to take photographs.

“As I reached them I looked and the other man was taking photographs of grass and mud. There was nothing of note.

“It looked to me that once he spotted us he deliberately said something.

“I observed him there for eight minutes but I don't know how long he had already been there.”

The man seen with Ashford was not stopped at the time and has not been identified since.

When interviewed by police, Ashford told officers he had walked his dog in the park twice daily for around two years, and that his dog usually led the way by running off chasing squirrels.

Ashford told the court: “I saw a man taking photos of snowdrops and I got into a conversation with him because they were my favourite flowers.

“He was a complete stranger and I have never seen him before. I mentioned I had seen some flowers a few days earlier and I didn't know what they were called. I tried to describe them but he didn't know.
“I was only being inquisitive. I am not a flower buff but I wanted to know its name.”

Ashford claimed he took the “complete stranger” to the flowers, which he said he later found out to be ranunculales. This put him within 20 metres of Gunton Primary School.

He said: “All that was in my mind were the flowers. He took two photos and adjusted his lens. I don't have access to the internet so he said he would keep an eye out for me and let me know if he found out their name.

“I walked off, directly away from the playing fields. I didn't see any children.

“It was not my intention to loiter or take photographs of children. As far as I am concerned I was there for a purpose.

“I am always aware of where I should and should not be. Had I seen the flowers anywhere else in the woods I would have taken him there.

Magistrates found Ashford guilty of breaching the SHPO and remanded him in custody until he is sentenced on June 18.

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