December 13 2013 Latest news:
Peter Walsh, Crime correspondent
Thursday, October 17, 2013
A former BBC Radio Norfolk presenter says he ‘maintains his complete innocence’ after he was found guilty of a string of serious sexual offences against a number of boys spanning almost two decades.
Michael Souter, 60, of Low Bungay Road, Loddon, had denied 19 counts of historic child sex abuse relating to seven different boys aged between 11 and 16, which are said to have happened between 1979 and 1999.
But a jury at Norwich Crown Court has today found Souter guilty of all counts following a trial lasting more than five weeks. He has been remanded in custody while sentence is adjourned until October 31 for reports but was warned by the judge he faces a ‘long period in prison’.
• Reaction and background on the Michael Souter trial
• Officer says it was “one of the worst cases of prolonged child abuse”
• Former presenter described in four-week hearing as ‘sexual deviant’
• The shocking double life led by former radio presenter
• Accused apparent self-confidence belied his guilt
Souter, who showed little emotion as the verdicts were read out, has also been found guilty of a further seven counts of making and possessing indecent images of young children which were found on a computer following his arrest. He was found not guilty on one (possessing indecent images of a child) charge and they could not reach a unanimous verdict on one (count 20 possession of indecent photos of a child).
After the verdict Andrew Hill, defending, said there would be “little that can be said” in terms of mitigation at that hearing.
However, outside the court, Mr Hill read a statement from Souter, which said: “Mr Souter is obviously disappointed by the verdict. He maintains his complete innocence to all charges brought against him and will vigorously pursue all avenues open to him to clear his name. Mr Souter would also like to thank all his friends and family for their support.“
Souter, who was described as “a deviant sexual abuser of young boys, particularly boys in uniform and those wearing shorts” by prosecutor Andrew Shaw, had vowed to clear his name after being charged with the offences.
Souter had insisted that none of these events happened, that the victims had falsely accused him or colluded against him.
He also accused the police of putting indecent images on his computer after he was arrested in 2011 and even at one point during the trial accused both Judge Mark Lucraft and Mr Shaw.
But the jury of nine men and three women took just four hours to find the defendant guilty.
For his seven victims that will be a momentous day and a day which some thought might never come because Souter, who had previously been arrested in 1993 after one boy made a complaint of abuse, had no further action taken against him then or indeed in 2002 when two further complaints were made.
It was only in 2010 when police received another complaint from a man who gave details of other victims that significant progress was made in terms of investigating Souter who was later arrested in 2011 at his home in Loddon.
Mr Shaw said 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”.
During the trial Norwich Crown Court had heard Souter worked in television and radio and was “something of a local celebrity”.
The jury were told the victims were often taken on trips, both in this country and abroad or given treats like trips to Norwich City matches or Pleasurewood Hills amusement park, near Lowestoft.
Souter, who was wearing a dark blazer, blue shirt, purple tie and grey trousers, was also involved in the scout movement and was a mentor in a link-up scheme with Norfolk County Council, which put him in touch with vulnerable youngsters.
Mr Shaw said: “The significance of his work and his involvement with the scouts and social services, is that these three roles brought Mr Souter into regular contact with pliable young boys and very often pliable young boys who were among society’s most vulnerable.”
He added: “We say Mr Souter is a deviant sexual abuser of young boys, particularly boys in uniform and those wearing shorts.”
The court heard one of the alleged victims once tried to stop Souter’s advances after being taught at school that in the army they laced soldiers’ tea with bromide, a sedative which can suppress sexual feelings, and stole a bottle from school and hid it under a pillow.
It was, however, discovered by Souter before the youngster could use it.
Mr Shaw said no fewer than seven different adult men have accused Mr Souter of sexually abusing them over a period “spanning getting on for 20 years” and the likelihood of them all deciding to invent “spurious and wicked allegations against an innocent man were, frankly, nil”.
In his closing speech earlier this week Mr Shaw said Souter was a “child abuser of the most serious kind” an described him as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, likening him to characters in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
He said: “He had all the allure of a Toymaker and all the menace of a Child Catcher.”