A judge has slammed members of a village community after a raft of letters about the victim of a man who groomed a child were sent to her.
Judge Jacqueline Beech revealed she had received 19 letters addressed directly to her regarding businessman Robert Hayes-Danson, 47, from Woodplumpton, who was previously found guilty of nine indecent assaults and two counts of sexual activity with a child.
He was cleared by a jury of indecently assaulting two other women.
The judge jailed Hayes-Danson, now of Birch Avenue, Newton with Scales, for 10 years at Preston Crown Court on Friday - five of which will be spent in prison and five on licence.
The court heard a woman linked to the victim also received a letter which read: “You are hated in the village and are known as the five witches of Woodplumpton.”
It went on to threaten to ostracise her family for “generations” to come.
Judge Beech called the letters “libellous, vexatious, and utterly inappropriate” and added: “They undermine the jury’s verdict and the inference is I should do the same.
“It’s the most extreme course of action I’ve ever seen in a case before me. I have been at the bar since 1980.
“It will not form any part of my deliberations.”
The court heard Hayes-Danson, a married father-of-three also known as Bob, groomed a girl over a three year period in the 1990s when she was aged 12 to 15.
He was caught 20 years later when the woman realised she had been groomed after watching an abuse storyline on the BBC1 soap, EastEnders.
The woman, now in her 30s, watched an episode of the soap in which a 12-year-old is sexually exploited, and realised she had been abused and was not, as she thought, having an ‘affair’ with him.
The court previously heard how he took the girl to shops and bought her perfume which he told her not to tell his wife about.
The pair watched videos together while Hayes-Danson offered her lifts in his van and invited her to his home.
The victim put distance between them when, after his first attempt to have sex with her, Hayes-Danson’s wife ‘almost’ interrupted.
In a statement, read to the court yesterday the woman said it had devastated her family and made her a target for hatred.
She said: “My family and I have been treated like the enemy within our local community.
“I have had my reputation shattered by his family and friends. I have been disbelieved, called a liar, and a witch.
“The village rumour mill is active and I have a daily fear of retribution.”