A firefighter and ex-soldier with a “record of exemplary service” abducted a 12-year-old boy and gave him alcohol and vapes.
In what a senior judge described as one of the “most unusual” cases she had ever seen, Anthony Lingard, 39, was brought before Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court after repeatedly allowing the then 12-year old to say over at his him home on Schofield Street in Radcliffe and going on camping trips.
To do so, Lingard, who has also previously served as a police community support officer, allowed the boy’s father to falsely believe that he was the father of one of his friends.
Nicola Carroll, prosecuting, said: “They spoke on the phone, in a manner suggesting that they were chatting father-to-father.”
But Ms Carroll told the court that Lingard, now of Jethro Street, Bolton, lied in this way five times between July 2019 and January 2020 and allowed the boy and his friends to drink alcohol and smoke vapes at his home.
At one point while on a camping trip he “cuddled up” next to the boy in a tent.
Lingard was eventually arrested after word spread through the boy’s school and he was arrested
He eventually pleaded guilty to five counts of child abduction on August 31 last year and was first brough before the court for sentencing last May.
At the time, the case was delayed to allow time for a psychological report into Lingard given that both prosecution and defence agreed that there were no sexual motives in his crimes.
But his actions had been devastating for the victim and his family, who say their trust in adults has been “shattered”.
A victim personal statement from the boy’s father read by Ms Carroll said: “Mr Lingard has made my son feel like this, he has manipulated a young boy by allowing him to do things that he was not allowed to do at home.”
But Andrew Evans, defending, argued that Lingard’s crimes were driven in part by his struggles in understanding the normal rules of adult behaviour and his difficulties in relating to other people socially.
Mr Evans said that Lingard showed signs of living with high functioning autism and that any risk he posed to the public could be safely managed in the community.
Lingard had since lost his job as a firefighter and had to move house.
Mr Evans said: “This procedure has taught him the nature and consequences of his actions and this has been a lesson heeded.”
Judge Angela Nield acknowledged the seriousness of Lingard’s crimes but admitted matters had become more complicated after hearing more about his background.
She said: “This is one of the most unusual cases I have ever had to deal with in all my years sitting as a crown court judge.”
Judge Nield accepted that Lingard had been “not only an individual of good character but of positive good character with a record of exemplary service”.
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But she reminded the court that the harm he had caused the boy and his family “cannot be underestimated”.
Judge Nield sentenced Lingard to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered him to complete 30 rehabilitation activity requirement days with 100 hours of unpaid work.
She also banned him from any unsupervised activity with children for six months and hit him with an indefinite restraining order forbidding him from contacting the boy or his family.