Ex-EastEnders actor avoids jail over sex offences against teenage girls

Updated: 

An ex-EastEnders actor who committed sexual offences against three teenage girls while he was a youth worker has been sentenced to a suspended jail term of 18 months.

Joseph Shade, 24, who played Peter Beale in the soap from 1998 to 2004, admitted a string of offences against girls aged between 14 and 17, committed while he was working in Norfolk.

Norwich Crown Court heard that he sent text messages to girls asking them to have sex or send him pictures of their breasts, and on a single occasion he touched one girl on the bottom.

Judge Maureen Bacon QC, sentencing Shade on Friday, told him: "You sought to engage vulnerable teenage girls in sexual activity when you were in a position of trust."

Joseph Shade
Shade played Peter Beale in EastEnders from 1998 to 2004 (PA)

He was handed an 18-month prison sentenced suspended for 24 months, a five-year sexual harm prevention order barring him from working with children and vulnerable adults, and ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work.

He must also sign the Sex Offenders Register and complete a 60-day offender programme.

Judge Bacon said she took into account Shade's age at the time of offending, his maturity level, his guilty pleas and that he had not offended since.

Shade had been helped by the youth project as a young person, then became formally employed as a youth worker after turning 18.

The offences happened between 2012 and 2015, when Shade was aged between 19 and 21.

Prosecutor David Wilson said Shade had received training about safeguarding and appropriate boundaries when he started work as a youth worker.

"The need for those boundaries is fairly obvious, as the young people there were vulnerable," he said.

He said Shade sent Snapchat pictures of his penis, and added another girl on Facebook where he began to "send messages like he was in bed, his girlfriend wasn't there and he needed her help".

Mr Wilson continued: "He asked her to send pictures of herself topless and she sent the pictures.

"He said if she didn't send the pictures she couldn't keep going to the project."

The offending came to light when another teenager at the project, who said she felt awkward around the defendant, raised concerns with someone at the project and with police.

At interview, Mr Wilson said Shade admitted to police that he had taken advantage of his position but "he said he saw himself as a young person and not as a staff member".

Shade, of Cliff Road, Sheringham, Norfolk, admitted at an earlier hearing to five counts of causing or inciting a child under 18 to engage in sexual activity while in a position of trust and one count of sexual activity with a child by a person in a position of trust.

He changed his pleas on the fourth day of his trial, and a further five sexual offence charges will lie on file.

Matthew McNiff, mitigating, said: "He himself was a young vulnerable individual who was in need and sought help from this project.

"It seems that on his 18th birthday he was encouraged to transfer from user of the project to helper, provider, and plainly it was quite beyond him."

He said the "humiliation has been significant" for Shade, who had not matured emotionally at the time of his offending.

Shade, who was dressed smartly in a white shirt, blue tie and suit trousers, showed no reaction as he was sentenced.

Some of his victims sat in court and appeared tearful as Shade was sentenced.

There were shouts from the public gallery of: "Where's the justice for us?", "Disgusting", and: "You wonder why people don't speak up about it."