Trial exposes “the worse child abuse contemplated by law”

The Guardian, August 1 1998

Child protection agencies yesterday appealed for a new body to be set up to investigate organised child abuse after nine adults were jailed for a total of 100 years for a series of horrific sex offences against children as young as three.

In three linked trials, which could not previously be reported, a court heard that the abusers spent more than 35 years raping and torturing two generations of boys and girls from the same West Country family. The elderly couple at the centre of the case forced their children to have sex with family, friends and neighbours.

Judge William Taylor told the couple they were guilty of ‘wickedness beyond belief’. He said: “You have been convicted of the worst abuse of children contemplated by the criminal law.”

When police and social workers finally started to investigate the abuse two years ago they found that the children had twice tried to raise the alarm more than 30 years ago. They were ignored. When the couple’s oldest daughter complained, a school nurse decided she was simply looking for attention. A different daughter declared that she had been raped by a stranger, but a local GP rejected her complaint.

Mike Taylor, the director of children’s services for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, said the case was one of the most horrific the society had ever seen. “What we need is a national infrastructure of investigation services so that in any part of the country in which complex or organised abuse is being investigated there is a skilled social work service available to undertake that investigation alongside the police,” he said. “For local authorities to meet that need on their own is impossible. We think that in due course there should be a national government-funded service.”

The West Country court heard that the elderly couple at the centre of the case forced their seven children to abuse each other. Later, as adults, some of the victims became abusers. Four of the couple’s granddaughters were subjected to sex attacks by their own parents and by the grandparents. In total, nine people, including the elderly couple, were convicted of serious sexual offences. None of them can be identified because the law protects the identity of victims of sexual offences and these victims are linked to their attackers by blood or other factors.

Passing sentence, Judge Taylor said: “Degradation and humiliation were used as tools to subjugate these children and to ensure their submission and co-operation. If they resisted or complained they were hurt more. They were forced to abuse each other and were then told that they would end up in prison if these matters came to light. They were abused and tortured for your pleasure.”

Sentencing the grandfather, whom he described as the prime mover, to 25 years on 26 counts of rape, buggery and indecent assault against his children and grandchildren, the judge said two of his victims were still receiving counseling and another had resorted to self-mutilation to ‘cleanse’ herself.

Judge Taylor told the grandmother she had totally abrogated her responsibility as a parent. He said she had selected the children for abuse, held them down while they were raped, and laughed while her husband abused his grandchildren. She was jailed for 14 years.

Jailing the couple’s second son for 14 years for the rape and buggery of his nieces and the indecent assault of his own daughters, the judge said he took into account that the man had been abused and encouraged to abuse as a boy. But while that might explain what he did, it could never excuse it, he said.