December 11 2013 Latest news:
Peter Walsh, Crime Correspondent
Friday, October 18, 2013
A disgraced former BBC Radio Norfolk presenter who has been exposed as a “deviant sexual abuser of young boys” after being found guilty of a series of serious sexual abuse against seven victims spanning more than 20 years had twice escaped the clutches of the law.
Michael Souter has been warned he faces a lengthy spell in prison when he is sentenced later this month after a jury at Norwich Crown Court took less than four hours to find him guilty of 19 historic counts of child sex abuse relating to boys aged between 11 and 16.
Souter, 60, of Low Bungay Road, Loddon, was also convicted of a further seven counts relating to the making and possession of indecent images of children, not guilty of one count of possession of an indecent image of a child while the jury could not reach a verdict on another count.
But it emerged that Souter, who was remanded in custody before he is sentenced on October 31 so reports can be made to assess his dangerousness, had twice before had separate complaints made against him to the police – in 1993 when he was arrested and again in 2002 – although on both occasions the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) deemed there was not sufficient evidence to take any further action.
During the trial Andrew Shaw, prosecuting, said it may well be that those in authority over the years have “made mistakes” in not proceeding with those matters and that this trial is “an opportunity to make good those mistakes”.
When asked by this paper whether the CPS had done everything it could in ensuring Souter, who was also involved in the Scouts and a social services mentoring scheme and was approved for adoption in 1991, was brought to justice at the earliest opportunity a spokesman said: “We no longer have the files on the decisions made in 1993 and in 2004 so we are unable to review those decisions and say whether more could have been done. The files were destroyed in line with our policy on record management.
“Following the Jimmy Savile case, it is now recognised that complaints of child sexual exploitation reported to the police and considered by the CPS in the past were treated with a degree of caution which is not generally justified. Since the Savile case the approach of police and prosecutors has changed. The work on this case demonstrates that the new approach does work.”
Chris McCann, head of the CPS Complex Casework Unit for the East of England, said when the new complaints were made in 2010 the earlier allegations were reconsidered and these were included in the charges which we advised should be brought.
He said: “Things have changed a lot in the handling of these cases in the 20 years since the first complaint was made and we now take a different approach. The new guidelines published today lay out the agreed approach to prosecuting cases of child sexual abuse, and they will ensure that prosecutors focus on the overall credibility of an allegation rather than any perceived weaknesses of the person making them.
“That approach means that today a man correctly described by prosecuting counsel as a deviant sexual abuser is facing imprisonment.”
Meanwhile it has emerged detectives are investigating further allegations of abuse against Souter as part of a “live inquiry” which was initially started in 2010.
A spokesman said yesterday’s conviction following the trial was the culmination of part of the operation, dubbed Operation Dragonfly, which involved police identifying 595 people who had links to Souter.
The seven victims are believed to be among those people identified while it is believed at least one further victim has so far been identified as part of the operation.
When asked by this paper if police believed there were any further victims out there a spokesman confirmed that “at this stage there are outstanding lines of inquiry that police will continue to pursue – as this remains a live inquiry we cannot comment further.”
Speaking after yesterday’s verdict detective inspector Paul Brown, senior investigating officer, described it as “one of the worst cases of prolonged child abuse” he had ever dealt with and praised the victims in the case who have had to come to court to “relive” events.
He said: “I’ve got no doubt that their courage in coming forward will protect other children from significant harm and I want to thank them.”
Speaking outside court Andrew Hill, defending, read a short statement on his client’s behalf. It said: “Mr Souter is clearly very disappointed by the verdicts. He maintains he’s completely innocent of all charges brought against him and will vigorously pursue all avenues open to him to clear his name.”
A statement issued by the Scout Association, which confirmed he will never be able to work with them again, said: Souter has not been a member of The Scout Association for 25 years. The Scout Association condemns the actions of Souter and is pleased that the judicial process is now complete and he will now be punished for his crimes.”
Presenter used celebrity to rob victims of innocence – pages 6-7.
Comment – page 34.