Child abusers jailed for 46 years after preying on young boys
Four men who abused children in and around public toilets have been jailed for a total of more than 46 years.
Each of the men, who are now in their 70s, befriended children they met in the Burn Valley Gardens public toilets in Hartlepool, or elsewhere the town.
They were arrested as the police investigation into Hartlepool undertaker Gerald Martin widened to include other abusers.
Martin was jailed for 20 years for child sex offences last year.
Robert Black was jailed for 16 years, Geoff Hillier for 14 years, David Anderson for nine years and one month, and Peter Watts for seven years, six months, at a sentencing hearing at Teesside Crown Court.
Alan Edmonson was given two years in prison, suspended for two years, after the court heard he had only committed a single offence.
In a statement read to the court, one of the victims described how the abuse had left him permanently damaged.
“The moments of sexual predatory pleasure my abusers sought gave me a lifetime of psychological and behavioural problems,” said the victim.
“They stole my innocence, and replaced it with an immature attitude that resulted in failed relationships, alcohol and drugs abuse.
“Trust in others became minimal, with an expectation that all men who were being kind to me were doing so for their own depraved ends.
“My abusers should be jailed for their heinous sexual crimes, but also for the theft of children’s souls.”
Each of the victims was aged between 12 and 16 years when they were abused in the late 1970s and 1980s.
Watts, 72, of Oxford Road, Hartlepool, was convicted of five charges of indecent assault.
Black, 71, formerly of Derwent Grange, Hartlepool, now of no fixed abode, was convicted of four charges of indecent assault, and one serious sexual offence,
Hillier, 72, of Haswell Avenue, Hartlepool, was convicted of two charges of indecent assault, and two serious sexual offences. He admitted six charges of possessing indecent images.
Anderson, 71, of Grange Road, Hartlepool, admitted six charges of indecent assault.
Edmenson, 66, of Ibrox Grove, Hartlepool, was convicted of one charge of indecent assault.
Barristers for the men said the offences had taken place a long time ago when attitudes to homosexuality were different, and the impact of sexual activity with a child on the victim was not understood as it is today.
Passing sentence, Judge Howard Crowson said: “In the 1970s and 80s the Burn Valley Gardens public toilets attracted men who wanted to abuse children.
“Some men who abuse children are homosexual, some heterosexual, some bisexual, what they have in common is a warped reasoning which considers children to be appropriate sexual partners.
“It is true some of the children gave factual consent, but they cannot give legal consent, and they are entitled to the protection of the courts for their vulnerabilities to men such as you who groomed them for abuse.
“You are responsible for the abuse, not them.”
Judge Crowson made each of the men the subject of a lifetime sexual harm prevention order limiting their contact with children and limiting their internet use.
Commenting on the sentences, one of the victims said: “They are long sentences, although I’m not very keen on them having to serve only half.”
Another victim added: “We know there are other victims, and we want them to come forward.
“All victims should get their chance of getting justice.”
Speaking after the case, Detective Inspector Matt Hollingsworth said: “These five men preyed on young boys in the Hartlepool area during the seventies.
“They abused their victims and then, some thirty years later, made them re-live their ordeals further in the court room. This investigation has taken around two-and-a-half years from the very first report to the police, to receiving sentences.
“This brings to a conclusion those dealt with by officers from Operation Krafft.
“The courage and bravery of the victims throughout has been outstanding and I praise them for this.
“Thankfully, justice has now been served, and I hope that these sentences go some way towards helping the victims and their families move forward with their lives.”