December 12 2013 Latest news:
Peter Walsh, Crime correspondent
Thursday, October 17, 2013
The detective who led the Michael Souter investigation has described it as “one of the worst cases of prolonged child abuse” that he has ever dealt with.
Norfolk Constabulary says it is committed to working with partner agencies to prevent child sexual exploitation, support victims and bring offenders to justice. Anyone who may be affected by anything raised during the trial can contact police on 101.
The freephone NSPCC helpline 0808 800 5000 is available for anyone to report or seek advice relating to this case. Calls can be made anonymously.
Norfolk Sexual Assault Referral Centre, The Harbour Centre, operates a 24-hour service for victims of sexual abuse and can be contacted on 0845 456 4810, or contact police on 101 to report a crime.
The Lucy Faithfull Foundation is the UK’s only children’s charity dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse and runs a Freephone confidential helpline 0808 1000 900.
Souter’s catalogue of abuse began in 1979 when he worked at BBC Radio Norfolk. There he met a teenager doing casual work. The boy then carried out some odd jobs at Souter’s home where he indecently assaulted him.
During the 1980s and 1990s Souter’s abuse escalated. He took up senior positions in the community though the Scout Association, setting up a group in Costessey and eventually attaining the status of Assistant County Commissioner for Norfolk.
As a local Scout leader he was able to select victims to single out for special treatment which then developed into indecent assault and gross indecency.
Souter also put himself forward for positions of responsibility with young boys through services run by Norfolk County Council.
Here he committed the bulk of his offences, repeatedly abusing two boys over five years including raping them. He also used his connections with these victims to develop relationships with other boys whom he also went on to abuse.
In 2010 a man who was abused by Souter in the 1980s and 1990s reported the crimes to Norfolk Constabulary. The man also passed on details of two other victims.
As a result, Souter was subsequently arrested by police in June 2011, and paperwork and computer equipment was seized from his home in Low Bungay Road in Loddon. He was questioned and released on bail whilst inquiries continued.
In total seven men reported that Souter had sexually assaulted them, between 1979 and 1999. On 13 November 2012 the 60-year-old was charged with 19 offences.
In addition hundreds of images of boys in Scout uniforms and shorts were found on Souter’s computers, including a small number of indecent images. In May 2013 Souter was further charged with eight offences of possessing indecent photographs.
Souter pleaded not guilty to all charges and went on trial.
Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Inspector Paul Brown said: “It is fair to say that this is one of the worst cases of prolonged child abuse I have ever dealt with. Souter exploited his local celebrity status and connections to gain access to children, and this also provided him with the perfect cover for his offending as he appeared to be an upstanding member of the community whom no-one would challenge.
“He conned so many people who will no doubt be shocked to hear how the man they trusted was actually grooming and molesting young boys over many years.
“The photographs found on Souter’s computer were disturbing in their volume and content, and whilst giving evidence about them he fabricated claims of conspiracy and corruption within the police rather than admit possessing the images.
“These totally unfounded allegations simply served to call his character into question even further. Whilst Souter himself did not abuse the boys in the indecent images, these charges are no less serious as the viewing and sharing of indecent images perpetuates abuse around the globe.
“The evidence we presented is damning, yet Souter continues to deny what he has done and has put his victims through reliving his offending in court. I commend these men for having the bravery to come forward and talk about what happened to them; Souter committed some truly awful crimes and these men have lived with the memory of this for decades. We are keenly awaiting his sentencing and I hope this will give them some closure.
“This was a complex and lengthy investigation, as more and more victims and then the images were discovered as it progressed. I would like to thank my team, the Hi-Tech Crime Unit, and the Crown Prosecution Service Complex Case Unit and prosecution team including Andrew Shaw for their hard work and sensitivity in this case.
“Whilst Souter clearly preyed on children who were at their most vulnerable, this case should serve to highlight to anyone who may be perpetrating similar acts today that one day their victims will have the strength to turn the tables as we have seen here.”