The former owner of a petting farm has walked free from court after being sentenced for sexual activity with a teenage girl.

Mark Hebdon was found guilty of one charge by a jury after a day and a half of deliberations and was cleared of two other sexual offence charges in July this year.

The 55-year-old was back at Teesside Crown Court to learn his fate after the case was adjourned to allow time for medical reports to be compiled.

Hebdon carried out the abuse when he was running a petting zoo at Monk Park Farm near Thirsk - he no longer owns the business.

Judge Timothy Stead said he accepted there was no grooming in the case and that his ‘father-figure’ relationship had gone too far when he kissed her and tried to undo her bra.

“You’re not going to prison today,” he said. “Analysing your case, you have been found guilty of an offence of sexual activity with a child. The facts are really simple, she was a teenager at the time and you were in your 50s.

“It’s clear to me that you came too close to her and your offence is a sexual offence and that’s what I have to sentence you for.

“You were found guilty of kissing her and trying to undo her bra.”

York Press: Mark HebdonMark Hebdon

Hebdon, of Friargate Terrace, Brompton Road, Northallerton, was sentenced to six months in prison suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.

He was also ordered to sign on the sex offenders’ register for seven years.


During his trial, jurors had heard how the defendant had suffered from meningitis in 2006 and the illness had impacted on his hearing and ability to respond quickly to information and questions.

Paul Abrahams, prosecuting, said the accused refuted claims that he had groomed the teenager by showering her with an iPhone and money while grooming her.

Jurors had heard how the defendant lost his mobile phone chasing an injured duck on the farm on the day that police arrived to interview him about the allegations.

Tania Griffiths KC, mitigating, said her client still believes that the jury got its verdict wrong but accepts that he will be sentenced following his conviction by the jury.