Gardner got off too lightly, says horrified ex-colleague
A former colleague and friends of disgraced youth worker Paul Gardner said the 45-year-old “surrounded himself with children”.
Frances Campbell, leader in charge at Ballybeen Activity Centre in Dundonald, who worked with Gardner for 25 years and considered him a friend, said he is “a risk to children” and was given too light a sentence.
She said: “I was very disappointed that the prosecution and judge didn’t go into more detail about his work at Ballybeen Activity Centre, where he surrounded himself with children.
“He is a risk to children. Because of the nature of youth work, kids would have been hanging on him all the time”.
Ms Campbell said she expected Gardner to receive four years custody and additional probation, but was shocked he only received two years custody: “He got off far too lightly,” she claimed.
“The policemen told me there were so many images they couldn’t go through them all. He got two years, and could be out in one year.”
Ms Campbell also outlined the events that led to Gardner’s arrest in September 2008: “At no time did we ever expect this was going on.
“On the night in question one of our young leaders, who came to the youth club at the age of five and knew Paul from aged around seven, asked him to download music from his computer. She asked him to download it onto her brand new laptop.
“When she checked her computer she noticed a file named ‘14 year old and her little sister’. She opened it and found the indecent video.
“The young leader alerted another youth worker. When the club was over for the day the youth leader contacted the police and reported it. The youth club leaders are still in shock and feel very hurt and betrayed by Paul Gardner.
“After working with someone for nearly 25 years, you think you know them, but you don’t.”