A well-known Burton cake maker carried out a series of sex attacks on a girl aged under 13, a court has heard. Harry Gowdy, who was well-known in the town thanks to his cake firm HK Celebrations, has now been jailed for six years after admitting touching the girl on at least five separate occasions and encouraging her to send naked photographs of herself a few years later.
Gowdy, 61, appeared under his real name of Henry Gowdy, wearing a white shirt and a blue tie for his sentencing hearing at Stafford Crown Court, did not react as the prosecution described how he would assault the young girl.
He admitted three counts of sexual assault of a child under the age of 13, three counts of inciting a girl into sexual activity and one count of possession of extreme pornography.
Raj Punia, prosecuting, told the court: "The defendant is some 50 years her senior which is a significant difference in age. She reported to her mother that the defendant touched her.
"Her mother contacted the police and he was arrested. The girl said he didn't say anything and she didn't say anything either but she said she felt uncomfortable when he did this."
Gowdy ran his business from Burton Market Hall. When the market closed down temporarily in 2013 to allow for the multi-million pound refurbishment at the building, along with other market stallholders, Gowdy moved his business to the first floor of The Octagon shopping centre. His business closed in 2016.
Miss Punia went on to say: "At the beginning of September 2015 there was contact between her and the defendant via text. It started accidentally. And they would exchange text messages.
"The defendant asked her for an indecent image of herself. And told her how to position herself to take the photo. She sent about five photos of herself, and he sent indecent images of himself back to her."
The girl's mother grew suspicious of what was happening and spoke to the child, the court was told. Gowdy was eventually arrested at his home address, on February 1, 2016, and several digital devices were seized and one extreme pornographic image was found of a woman and a horse, the court was told.
It was around this time HK Celebrations closed, with Gowdy claiming his health issues were to blame. When he was interviewed by police Gowdy told police he was "flattered that she had taken an interest in him".
Defending Gowdy, Steve Hennessy said a "trial of issue" was due to take place in court with Gowdy to claim it was the victim who had initiated the original contact. But he later scrapped this move having pleaded guilty, and the case was instead progressed to the sentencing stage because Gowdy did not want the victim to go through the heartache of giving evidence.
Mr Hennessy said: "Give him credit for his early guilty plea. It had gone to a trial of issue as he disagreed with some of the facts but [axing the trial of issue and go to sentencing] was for consideration of the girl.
"His family are present and they have made it very clear that they do not condone his behaviour and are at pains to understand what his motivation might be. His initial reluctance to plead to the exact crimes is an indication of his degree of shame.
"He is deeply ashamed of what he did and this has motivated himself to seek help from third party support agencies. He is 61. He is a man of advancing years and he has health issues but none of this explains the way he behaved."
Presiding judge Justice Geraldine Andrew read out a series of text messages sent from Gowdy to the girl.
She told Gowdy: "The victim would have had to give evidence but you decided you wanted to plead guilty based on the Crown's version of events. I will give you some credit for your guilty plea.
"On around five occasions you assaulted her sexually. In 2015, the contact was initially friendly but rapidly progressed to her sending pictures of herself, around 10, and you sent some of you back, around six.
"You are now 61 years old - more than 50 years her senior. You are not a man of previous good character but these convictions are not relevant. There was a reported pattern of offences initiated by you for your own sexual gratification.
"You made the suggestion that it was the child who initiated some contact but now admit it is totally down to you. You have expressed remorse and have no relevant convictions. There is an element of grooming but it takes place in a relatively short period of time.
"I have stood back and looked at the overall offending and it is a question of whether or not you are dangerous and if there is a real risk by you of serious offences. By your lack of previous interest in children, the fact you are 61 and you are going to prison for a lengthy period of time, and you voluntarily took steps to address your offending behaviour suggests you are not dangerous."
Gowdy, now of Ilkeston, in Derbyshire, but previously of Branston, was jailed for six years with six months to be served concurrently for the possession of extreme pornography. He will spend 10 years on sexual harm prevention order and an indefinite period on sexual offenders' register.