A serial paedophile who abused girls as young as two has walked free from court – because of his OWN bad health.
Gerald Longman, 78, was given an absolute discharge despite being convicted of a string of attacks on girls dating back to the 1960s.
He committed four indecent assaults and two rapes, and incited a girl under 14 to carry out an indecent act.
But a judge then handed him an absolute discharge – because he is now suffering from dementia.
Speaking after the hearing his daughter Heather West – who was one of her father’s victims – waived her right to anonymity to slam the decision.
Heather, 56, of Taunton, Somerset, choked: ”I don’t think he feels guilty. He needs to suffer.
“And what does this mean for other paedophiles? Does this set a precedent for others to get away with it?”
”He should have gone to prison for the rest of his life.”
Longman, of Bridport, Dorset, began his campaign of sexual abuse around 50 years ago, Taunton Crown Court heard.
He had been deemed unfit to stand trial after a doctor said he had dementia, but a jury decided he had committed the crimes.
Judge Graham Hume Jones said he gave the absolute discharge with “the greatest of reluctance”.
He said: “It’s most unfortunate, but there’s nothing I can do in the circumstances.
“But I have no doubt that all those that were listening to this case will keep a very close watch over the defendant in the future.”
The judge said he would leave the decision over whether Longman must sign the sex offenders’ register “up to the authorities”.
He also addressed the victims in the public gallery to say he hoped the case “would at least bring some closure to the rest of their lives”.
An absolute discharge is a lesser sentence imposed by a court in which no penalty is imposed.
But a court occasionally grants an absolute discharge for a very serious offence.
This usually signifies that while a crime may technically have been committed, the imposition of any punishment would be inappropriate.
Another of Longman’s daughters who he abused, Christina Western, 46, also of Taunton, was the first to come forward to police to report the crimes.
She said: “I’m angry. We knew he might get a discharge but that there might be some sort of restriction placed on his life.
”Now it doesn’t look like he’s even going to get that.”
Mrs Western said her ordeal had led to her self-harming and starving herself.
Both women said they would now take civil action against Longman.