A star army recruit who stole the innocence of four young female cadets was saved from jail after a plea for leniency from a British Army officer.
Benjamin Mattinson, 19, of Barmby Road, Pocklington, courted four separate young girls on Facebook and Snapchat, impressing them with his status as an army cadet drill instructor and flattering them with compliments to gain their trust.
Despite knowing they were underage, he pestered them to send intimate pictures. He arranged meetings in woods and car parks for sex. He had sex with three young cadets, but became moody when they confided in friends as he wanted it to be a secret.
He knew he was breaking the law and was told if he was an adult he could be jailed for more than five years.
But a judge allowed him to walk free after Lieutenant Saunders of the 1st Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment said that Mattinson had a “very bright future with potential for leadership” within the army.
In a letter to the judge he said his performance in training, including physical fitness, was very strong, leading to him to be judged “Best Recruit” at his army passing-out parade.
Crown barrister Charlotte Baines told Hull Crown Court Mattinson seduced the first cadet by initially paying her compliments, saying “she looked nice.” Quickly the compliments moved on to how she looked in her shirt, and asking for intimate pictures.
“She initially said she was scared as she had not done anything like that before,” said Ms Baines. He began to ask for the pictures to be more revealing. Ms Baines said the girl told him to delete them. At one stage she blocked him on Facebook, but resumed the relationship after he said he missed her and met up in a Pocklington park. On that occasion he initiated sex. He was later to tell police it was a one-off French kiss.
Ms Baines said the second girl was impressed with his role as drill instructor and was soon receiving a request: “I think we should meet.” Their first date was a walk where he gave her his coat, but he soon began his trademark requests for sex acts. They would meet regularly on a fence with him pestering for sexual acts and her saying she did not want to do more. She confessed to a friend about her feelings for him. When Mattinson found out he did not speak to her for five months. He said he could get into trouble because of her age. He had sex at least three times.
The third girl met Mattinson with him using Facebook to request for meetings. They would meet 12-times a month for sex in the woods. No-one knew about the relationship, but the girl became suspicious he was dating others at the same time as her. Ms Baines said Mattinson charmed the girl “calling her beautiful” making her feel good. “She said he was there when no-one else was,” said Ms Baines.
The fourth girl met Mattinson in East Yorkshire. “He was flirting and asking her to go to his tent,” said Ms Baines. “She thought his motives were sexual. She declined.” Straight after camp he messaged her, with normal conversation at first and then requesting more sexual pictures. She sent him a picture and he replied: “Very nice, but I want to see more.”
“He messaged her every day for two weeks,” said Ms Baines. During a Skype conversation he encouraged her to undress herself. Her mother discovered what was going on when she found conversations on Skype where he encouraged her to point the camera lower. Her husband called the cadets and the police were informed.
Mattinson pleaded guilty to 11 charges of sexual touching a child and two charges of inciting sexual activity and appeared for sentence at Hull Crown Court on Monday.
Defence barrister Dale Brook said: “The reference by Lieutenant Saunders showed Mattinson’s performance in training was very strong. It seems the immature, troubled boy is flourishing into a mature, responsible and productive man. There is no doubt this young man made serious mistakes. He has lost his character in quite a spectacular fashion. Lt Saunders described him as having a very bright future in the armed forces.”
Mr Brook said if he were to be jailed he would lose his career in the army and anything other than a suspended sentence would mean his expulsion.
Sentencing, Judge Simon Jack told Mattinson if it had not been for his reference and early guilty plea he could have been jailed. “This was serious offending over a substantial period of time on a substantial number of girls. There was an element of abuse of trust. You were in some cases three years older than them - a real difference in age that may have influenced them to give in to your wishes.
“I take the view the nature and gravity offences mean that I have to pass a prison sentence, but I can suspended it. I make it clear that I bear in mind the references when I pass this sentence. The army will not now be obliged to discharge you. You look like you have a good career ahead of you, don’t throw it away.”
Mattinson was given a six-month suspended prison sentence, and ordered to pay £500 in costs. He walked free from court.