A pensioner who raped two girls over a period of years will not face jail after his dementia diagnosis meant he could not stand trial.
John Fisher, 75, subjected two girls to a campaign of rape and sexual assault throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, a jury in a fact finding hearing at Liverpool Crown Court determined, but he was not formally convicted of the offences due to his health conditions.
However, judge Anil Murray warned Fisher still poses a risk to women and girls and handed him a supervision order that allowed him to keep his liberty with conditions.
Both victims said they continued to deal with the fallout of the abuse and said it had marked their entire lives.
In a statement to the court, one said: “I always wonder what person I would have been if this did not happen to me.”
Fisher said in a Crown court hearing last year that he would fight the charges, but a number of medical assessments found he was unfit to stand trial after being diagnosed with vascular dementia.
In a rare move, Fisher’s case was then put before a jury in what is known as a fact finding hearing.
Michael Scholes, prosecuting, said: “The jury found that in fact the defendant had done the acts and that the victims were telling the truth.”
While juries in these hearings make a judgment on the facts of a case in a similar way to those in a trial, they cannot convict.
Instead, defendants in these cases are sentenced by a judge on the basis of the jury’s findings – but the lack of a conviction means the court’s power to punish is severely restricted.
The only options in Fisher’s case were to detain him in hospital, hand him a supervision order or discharge him.
Doctors said he was unsuitable for a hospital order and, at a previous hearing, the judge said a discharge, which would see no further action taken, would be unsuitable because Fisher needed the supervision of support workers.
Judge Murray sentenced Fisher to a two year suspension order, the maximum he could give.
Raising concerns about Fisher’s behaviour in recent years, Murray said: “Whilst the most recent offence in this case was 20 years ago there is evidence that you have behaved in a sexually inappropriate way towards staff at the unit where you were residing as well as members of the public.”
Fisher, previously of Webster Avenue in Wallasey, was also given a restraining order which prevents him from contacting his victims for 10 years and a sexual harm prevention order that places restrictions on him for the same period of time.
He will be subject to the notification requirements for sex offenders for five years.