The former chairman for UKIP in Bury has been jailed on 21 counts of child sex offences.

Peter Entwistle, the former chairman and a founding member of UKIP in Bury, spoke to children using the home of all teenagers in the noughties, MSN Messenger. Entwistle was also found on other social network sites and would speak to children in a sexualised manner. The reports do not specify necessarily what sexualised manner means, however it was confirmed he would request that the minors perform sexual acts.

Whilst on MSN the 52 year old would use the display name of “Naughty Doctor”, which does not appear to be entirely out of the ordinary for an MSN display name. However the use of an explicit image of two women as his display photo was not an ordinary occurrence and could well have been an early sign that he was feeling sexually aroused when he would speak with minors.

The only offence which was partially released to read was a case of grooming where Entwistle spoke with a 13 year old girl and a 12 year old boy, who he believed to be a girl, and asked them to commit lewd acts. This is where the charge of inciting and the attempted inciting of children to commit sexual acts.

In addition to the grooming of these children through social media Entwistle is also guilty of owning sexual images of minors, over 200,000 of them. When the police raided his house on January 25th of 2013, they found thousands of the indecent images stored across a number of computers attempting to hide his tracks. There were even more images found on memory sticks and some which had even been printed out.

Entwistle was sentenced to four years and eight months in prison after pleading guilty to 21 counts at an earlier hearing. Had Entwistle not plead guilty to these charges Entwistle would likely have been given a far longer sentence based on the cumulative value of his offences. The typical range of a prison sentence for any one of these offences is between 4 and 9 years per offence. The issue here is that Entwistle offences took place before the changes to the law in 2012 and thus he is not subject to the mandatory minimum sentences set forth in the Sexual Offences Act, and its guidelines for sentencing.

This is a story that hits uncomfortably close to home considering that this has been going on in my hometown without anybody being able to recognise it was happening. The other factor at play her is that it comes as yet another blow to the North West in child abuse cases following the events in Rochdale.

The court was told that Entwistle, who happens to live around the corner from Fairfield County Primary and Nursery School, had one previous conviction of indecent exposure. Entwistle exposed himself to an adult woman in the 1980s, but had otherwise had a clean record and in the words of the judge of this case has “led an exemplary life”.

Iain Simkin, in an effort to defend Entwistle, read out a letter to the court from Alistair Burt, who was the MP for Bury North from 1983 to 1997, which referenced his good character. Mr Burt did however qualify his statements saying, “While condemning the vile offences, I think it is right to stand by the innocent family and friends I have known since I was at school, and help an offender get back on the right track.”

The judge in this case, Elliot Knopf, also appearing lenient added, “You are now 52-years-old, and you have, until these matters, led an exemplary life, which is attributed to by various letters I have received from people ranging from family, colleagues, the rector of churches and an MP.”

The court was made aware of the fact that Entwistle has been seeking treatment from a psychiatrist for depression, although whether that played into the sentencing we will never know. He was a founder member of Bury UKIP in March 2011, and resigned as party chairman in January 2013.

The issue when it comes to offences of this nature always a hot button topic and conjure in every human the most vicious desire to see someone who would harm children imprisoned and the key to be thrown away. The question in this case is can he be helped as the judge and Mr Burt seem to think he can. The alternative point of view is that this is what the man is attracted to and how can you turn away from what you are attracted to?

My personal distinction is drawn if you perform a physical act on the child in question. If the offender has done that then they should, as the animal in us all demands, be thrown in prison to rot. But there must also be some compassion. If this man can be helped and the children he would otherwise have abused never have to know that pain then why shouldn’t he be helped?

As in most cases where a prison sentence is involved it comes down to what your stance on punishment versus rehabilitation in prisons. It may be naïve to believe that some, not all, but some can be saved from themselves. I hope whilst Mr Entwistle is in prison he is given some help for his depression and that this sick part of him is pushed out of him. We may never know what he thinks but hopefully this sentence, whilst not overly strong, can save him from himself and the children from him.