Fears have been raised about the safety of Whitby children after a known sex offender was jailed for contacting children using a computer at the town’s library.
Benjamin Brooklyn (38) was this week jailed for nine months after breaching a court order by trying to befriend children on Facebook, York Crown Court heard on Monday.
He had received a Sexual Offences Protection Order in April after causing or inciting two young females to commit a sexual act. But within weeks he was at the library, trying to use the social network to befriend two girls aged just 11 and 12 and a 12-year-old boy.
Two of the children were in the library when they received messages from Brooklyn.
A library user who wished to remain anonymous said: “I think it’s awful. We don’t know who they are and I think it’s bad. They must feel dreadful, these poor girls who work at the library, knowing what’s gone on in here.”
Brooklyn appeared for sentencing, having previously admitted three charges of doing an act prohibited by a sexual offences order on June 17.
When interviewed by the police, Brooklyn said that orders to protect children were not meant to protect them from people like him because he did not consider himself to be a threat to them.
However, when passing sentence, Recorder Amanda Rippon said that Brooklyn’s actions in trying to befriend the children could be taken as a prelude to possible further offending.
Following the case, questions have been asked as to whether libraries and other public places which provide access to the internet should have tighter restrictions on convicted offenders.
A spokesperson for North Yorkshire County Council said people wishing to use library computers must first sign an ‘acceptable use’ form, but other restrictions could be an infringement on the offender’s civil liberties.
The spokesperson added: “Beyond that, Facebook and other social networks are perfectly legal sites so we can’t really police it more than that.”
Another library user, who wished to remain anonymous and was taking her nine-year-old son to the library, said restrictions should be stricter where children are put at risk: “Public places like libraries need a list of convicted offenders or a control register of some sort.”
Brooklyn was sentenced to nine months imprisonment, the recorder recommending that the police obtain a ban from local magistrates on him entering the town’s library.