Scarborough pub landlord Tony Burnard faces jail; he says sex assault on girl was 'taken out of context'

Tony Burnard
Tony Burnard

A well-known Scarborough publican who sexually assaulted a young girl has been told he faces a jail sentence.

Anthony Burnard, 79, admitted sexually assaulting the youngster at a property in Scarborough but there was a caveat to his plea which was not accepted by the prosecution.

Burnard, who was renowned for his charity works when he was landlord at The Trafalgar Hotel, appeared at York Crown Court on Friday for a Newton hearing, or trial of issue, where a judge heard fresh evidence about the offence to determine exactly what happened on the night in question.

The retired pub landlord, known as Tony, had pleaded guilty to one count of sexually assaulting a girl under 13 years of age at a previous hearing, but the case was adjourned for the trial of issue, the result of which would determine the severity of sentence faced by the pensioner.

Burnard, who has serious health problems, admitted he had sexually touched the child but above her clothes. The victim insisted he had touched her on an intimate part of her body after pulling her trousers down.

Burnard, of Trafalgar Street West, turned up to Friday’s hearing in a wheelchair flanked by friends and family. He was not able to sit in the dock because of his mobility problems and instead sat in his wheelchair beside a dock officer.

The court was shown video footage of the girl’s police interview following the incident in June this year.

The child told police that moments before the sexual assault, Burnard said to her: “I want to talk to you about something.”

She said Burnard urged her to get into bed with him and told her: “Come here and lie next to me.”

The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said she did as she was asked and then Burnard touched her on an intimate area.

“I said, ‘Don’t’,” she added. “He said, ‘Okay’, and just started watching TV again.”

Burnard claimed he had just patted the girl on her belly and must have accidentally touched her on an intimate area.

Asked if he had pulled the girls trousers down before sexually assaulting her, he said: “No, definitely not.”

He admitted that the child’s trousers were down when she got out of the bed but claimed he didn’t how this was so.

He added: “I’m sorry (for) whatever has happened. I’ve been misconstrued. In all sincerity, whatever I did, I didn’t mean to do it. It was taken out of context by (the police) and everybody else.”

He told the court he had been in the licensed trade for 52 years before his retirement. He said he had been recently plagued by chronic ill health after breaking his back twice and had undergone surgery after suffering an aortic aneurism.

Asked by prosecutor Matthew Collins whether he thought it was acceptable to be lying in bed with an under-age girl, Burnard replied: “Not really, no.”

When the barrister suggested that Burnard had been sexually aroused by having a young girl in his bed, the defendant replied: “No, that’s not right.”

Burnard’s barrister Rob Stephenson pointed out that his client had led a hitherto-blameless life. He claimed there were “issues” with the child’s evidence.

Judge Simon Hickey said it was noteworthy that Burnard, at 79 years of age, had never previously been convicted of any offences, but added that the evidence pointed incontrovertibly to the fact that Burnard must have pulled the girl’s trousers down before sexually assaulting her.

The judge said he had “no hesitation” in finding that this was the case and told Burnard he would be sentenced on that basis.

He adjourned sentence to January 7 and granted Burnard bail until then. The judge will sit at York on this date but Burnard will appear via video link from Doncaster Crown Court which has the requisite disabled facilities for his needs.