A BRIDGWATER paedophile who subjected two young girls to terrifying attacks could spend the rest of his life in a mental hospital.

Nicholas Prior, of Victoria Road, will be kept indefinitely in a secure institution after he was sentenced for pouncing on two schoolgirls - and sexually assaulting one - in the space of 12 days last year.

The Mercury reported how parents were left fearing for their children's safety after the attacks last July.

In the first, Prior kidnapped a ten-year-old girl in broad daylight in Blake Gardens but she managed to escape after her screams alerted passers by.

However, just days later, Prior struck again, when he dragged a girl into the public toilets in the Angel Place shopping centre and sexually assaulted her.

Taunton Crown Court, where Prior, 42, appeared for sentencing last week, heard how both girls were left “substantially distressed” after the attacks.

Prosecutor Stephen Dent also told how Prior had admitted indecently assaulting a seven-year-old girl in August 2000, but her parents decided not to press charges.

Consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Harm Boer told the court how Prior suffers from “significant learning disabilities” and would “not be suitable” for prison.

Judge Stephen O'Malley told Prior he must remain in the secure hospital for treatment and can only be released under orders from the Ministry of Justice, or a mental health tribunal.

Bridgwater neighbourhood inspector Nic Crocker told the Mercury the town is a safer place with Prior locked away.

He said: “Nicholas Prior has proved himself to be a very dangerous man. His indefinite detention is certainly in the public interest.”

This is The West Country: prior blake BRIDGWATER paedophile Nicholas Prior could have been “taken advantage of” in prison, according to a psychiatrist who recommended he be sent to a secure hospital instead.

At Taunton Crown Court last week, where Prior was being sentenced for two horrific attacks on young girls in Bridgwater last year, Dr Harm Boer said Prior would be living in a “locked environment” under a “high degree” of medical supervision at the 100-bed Brooklands Hospital in Birmingham.

Dr Boer told the court: “Mr Prior suffers from learning disabilities which cannot be treated. We cannot erase people's intelligence but we can prevent similar offences occurring in the future.

“We hope to start intensive treatment courses - including group and individually supervised sessions.”

Dr Boer said Prior, who suffers from a heart condition, should not be sent to prison.

He added: “He would be extremely vulnerable to other prisoners, who would be likely to take advantage of him, and I would worry about his physical condition.”

Judge Stephen O'Malley said he was faced with a choice between jailing Prior for a long time or letting him receive help in hospital.

He said: “I have heard clear evidence from the doctor and I agree and accept it, but there was also confirming evidence from another doctor.

“The problem your behaviour presents therefore would be better treated in hospital than prison.”

Judge O'Malley said Prior's attacks were terrifying experiences for his victims - girls aged eight and ten.

“I hope you appreciate that to some extent,” he told Prior.

This is The West Country: prior ragout