The former administrator of one of Yorkshire’s largest child safety agencies was tonight beginning a five-year jail term after a judge branded him a “predatory paedophile” following revelations that he paid an under-age boy for sex and took part in sexually explicit online chats with other youngsters.
Heathcliffe Bowen, who had also been chairman of Ilkley Parish Council, was convicted of six charges relating to attempts to engage children in sexual activity and attempting to meet one child after sexual grooming.
Some of the offences were committed while he was administrator of the Safeguarding Children Board in Bradford.
Bowen, 50, was also found guilty at Bradford Crown Court of distributing four indecent images of under 18s. At the start of his trial last week, he had also admitted possessing more than 25 indecent images of children, the jury heard.
He discussed meeting for sex with a male who said he was 14 and encouraged the teenager to perform a sex act over a webcam during a conversation on the video messaging service, Skype.
Bowen invited another schoolboy to have sex with him “if he was ever in Leeds” and also became involved in sexually explicit Skype conversations with another schoolboy who lived in New York, the court heard.
The Recorder of Bradford, Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC, said Bowen had given the appearance of being “a pillar of the community”.
But he said it was clear that he had a “deep and entrenched interest” in underage boys and the only obstacle to resolving the case had been the defendant’s complete inability to admit what was clearly demonstrated by the Skype logs and everything else, when police arrested him back in 2015.
Bowen, of Woodlands Rise, Ilkley, had claimed during the trial that the online chats were fantasy and he never intended anything to happen, but Judge Durham Hall suggested that the defendant was addicted to such behaviour and couldn’t help himself.
He told Bowen: “You have persisted in pursuing your lying account from start to finish and you gave evidence in detail and you have never shown any shame or remorse for these matters.”
Bowen, who was cleared on one charge, was made the subject of an indefinite sexual harm prevention order which restricts his use of the internet and contact with children and he will now have to register as a sex offender with the police for the rest of his life.
He was already a council administrator when in 2007 he was handed responsibility for the city’s safeguarding children board. Documents seen by The Yorkshire Post show that he was still its administrator in May 2014, a year after the first offences were committed.
The court heard he had been the subject of unrelated disciplinary proceedings at work when he was most involved in the online sex chat.
His barrister, David McGonigal, said Bowen had repressed his sexuality for most of his life.
Heathcliffe Bowen was a well-known figure in Ilkley’s civic community, having served as a parish councillor for 20 years and as council chairman three times. During his chairmanship, Jimmy Savile was invited to turn on the town’s Christmas lights.
The Bradford Safeguarding Board’s “statement of intent” is to “make sure that all people who work with children, and their families and carers know how important it is to keep all children in Bradford safe”.
Last night, its independent chairman, David Niven, said: “We are grateful that a comprehensive investigation has caught a serious offender.”