A Dragon’s Den contestant guilty of ‘appalling’ child sex offences has been sentenced to five years in prison at St Albans Crown Court.
The allegations related to four different girls and the court heard how Richard Hazell, 48, of Plumpton Road, Hoddesdon, had 2,957 indecent images of children on various laptops and computers he owned.
Deputy Circuit Judge William Kennedy dismissed Rebecca Lee’s attempt to mitigate on the basis Hazell showed a willingness to engage in therapy and regretted the impact on his daughter.
He said: “I find remorse difficult when sexual abuse of a child has taken place.”
In his speech to Hazell, the judge added: “There is one category of crime that appals everyone, and that is the sexual abuse of children.
“To rob a child of their trust in adults is a truly appalling offence.
“These offences do not last a day, or a month, or a year but throughout their life. For that reason these sentences are rightly regarded as so serious that only an immediate custodial sentence is appropriate.”
Hazell, who was self-employed and ran his business 365 Drills from home, was arrested on Monday, August 22, last year for sexual offences committed against a young girl on August 19.
The girl’s father complained to social services on Saturday, August 20 and police visited Hazell’s home the next day to interview him and his wife, who is divorcing him.
Prosecuting, Tim Forster read out a search made on Hazell’s computer on August 30 last year, which said ‘can you be found guilty for downloading child porn if the files are deleted on your computer’.
This search was entered on the only laptop police had not seized on his arrest on August 22 last year, when only one allegation was made, relating to an incident at his house on August 19 when he allegedly touched a primary school-aged girl inappropriately.
Asked why he entered this search, Hazell said: “I did search that, I was worried about what the police might think instead of what actually happened.”
Mr Forster responded: “You have typed your own confession.”
Images included two pictures taken of two young girls on a beach in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, on October 24, 2015, where he was on holiday with his wife and six-year-old daughter.
These images had been cropped to zoom into one of the girl’s vagina, which was visible as she wore no underwear.
Another image shows Hazell’s face superimposed onto a naked man’s body holding the hand of a young girl with no clothes on.
Hazell claimed the image was made as a practical joke by someone he knows after a group of friends went on holiday in Jamaica in April last year and found out they were staying next to a nudist beach.
He refused to reveal the practical joker’s identity.
Hazell maintained he had no knowledge of any indecent photo of children on any of his devices.
He was convicted of 13 charges: two of sexual assault on a child under 13; two of sexual assault; one of taking indecent photos of children; seven of making (downloading) indecent photos of children; one of making an indecent pseudo photo of a child.
He was sentenced to a total of 57 months in prison, of which he will serve at least half.
He was cleared of two offences of sexual assault on a child under 13.
Following the sentencing an NSPCC spokesperson for the East of England said: “A jail sentence alone is not enough – Hazell must complete a treatment programme to tackle his behaviour and any risk he may pose on release.
“He prolonged his young victims’ horrific ordeal by pleading not guilty and we hope they get all the appropriate support they need.
“Abuse ruins childhoods and last year the NSPCC spoke to more than 37,000 primary school children across Hertfordshire about how to recognise and report it.”
Children can call Childline on 0800 1111 for support and advice.