Four men guilty of sex offences against children in Hartlepool public toilets

Site of the public toilets at the centre of the case
Site of the public toilets at the centre of the case

Four men were warned they are facing prison after they were convicted of 16 sexual offences against children.

Robert Black, Peter Watts, Alan Edmenson, and Geoff Hillier were found guilty of all the charges they faced following a trial lasting 10 days at Teesside Crown Court.

Joseph Brown was found not guilty of the single charge of indecent assault he faced.

Judge Howard Crowson told the four guilty men he would sentence them after reports had been prepared by the probation service.

"The reports will help me assess the risk of further offending," said the judge. "It is easier for those to be prepared while you are on bail.

"But you shouldn't take that as any indication of the type of sentence, there is an inevitability about that."

The case centred around homosexual activity in the Burn Valley Gardens public toilets in Hartlepool in the late 1970s and 1980s.

Each of the men admitted using the toilets to find adult male sexual partners.

Mr Brown told the jury: "If I was in there and any children came in, I came out."

All of the defendants were arrested after the inquiry into Hartlepool undertaker Gerald Martin widened.

He was convicted of a string of sex offences last year, and jailed for 20 years.

Two of Martin's victims made allegations against the men convicted today, as did a third victim.

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 two charges of indecent assault, and two serious sexual offences.

Edmenson, 66, of Ibrox Grove, Hartlepool, was convicted of one charge of indecent assault.

The four men were bailed to return to court to be sentenced on March 17.

An NSPCC spokesman said: “It is horrifying that these men were able to subject their numerous young victims to abuse over a period of years in a public place close to a town centre.

“It is vitally important that victims feel able to come forward and report what happened to them, no matter how long ago the offences took place and it is heartening that these abusers have been brought to justice after publicity around another non-recent cases of abuse.

“Victims must be reassured that they will receive justice and that their bravery helps other potential victims come forward to report crimes and seek support. It is never too late.”