December 12 2013 Latest news:
Peter Walsh, Crime correspondent
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
A former BBC Radio Norfolk presenter accused of a string of historic sex offences was a “deviant sexual abuser of young boys” who used his status to carry out serious and serial child sexual abuse which spanned over some 20 years, a court has heard.
Michael Souter, 60, of Low Bungay Road, Loddon, appeared at Norwich Crown Court yesterday for the start of his trial after denying 19 counts of historic child sex abuse.
The charges, which relate to seven different boys aged between 11 and 16, are said to have happened between 1979 and 1999 and include counts of indecent assault and indecency.
The jury of nine men and three women were sworn in before Andrew Shaw, prosecuting, opened the case for the crown.
The jury were told that Souter, who was dressed in dark blazer, blue shirt and tie, worked in television and radio and was “something of a local celebrity”.
The court heard the defendant’s alleged victims were often taken on trips, both in this country and abroad including places such as Holland and Tenerife, or given treats such as trips to Norwich City matches or Pleasurewood Hills.
Souter 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.
One of the complainants, who was 14 or 15 at the time, worked casually at Radio Norfolk and would accompany Souter in the radio car.
He washed the radio car and was later invited to wash Souter’s car and eventually went to his house.
The boy did odd jobs for Souter for cash and on one occasion remembers being at the defendant’s house with a friend when they were offered beer.
Mr Shaw said, tellingly, Souter did not appear to be drinking himself but the victim and his friend were “tucking into the forbidden fruit”.
Mr Shaw said the boy became unwell and went to bed where he fell asleep before waking up to find his trousers and underwear round his knees and the defendant sat on the bed indecently assaulting him.
Mr Shaw said the embarrassment and stigma of being labelled gay prevented the boy reporting the matter at the time.
Another complainant reported to the police that he had been subjected to an indecent assault by Souter while a Scout in the late 1970s.
The pair had cycled to a Scout building where they stayed the night, during which time the youngster drank alcohol, before later being subjected to an indecent assault.
It was after a Norwich game that Souter is alleged to have invited one of the boys for a trip in his camper van before asking him to “tickle” him which Mr Shaw said was a case of gently introducing the child to sexual activity.
The prosecutor said he was “grooming him” and preparing him for what was to come.
The court heard some of the complainants had gone to the police before but no action had been taken against Souter.
Mr Shaw 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”.
The prosecutor finished his opening by emphasising to the jury that no fewer than seven different adult men have accused Mr Souter of sexual abusing them over a period “spanning getting on for 20 years”.
He said that Souter’s position is that none of these events happened, that the complainants have falsely accused him or colluded against him.
But Mr Shaw said the likelihood of seven men born in three different decades all deciding to invent “spurious and wicked allegations against an innocent man were frankly nil”.
He added: “There’s an old saying that lightning doesn’t strike twice, the prosecution say it certainly doesn’t strike seven times.”
Souter presented a number of shows for BBC Radio Norfolk from its launch in 1980 until the 1990s.
Originally from Scotland, he worked as a producer and presenter in both commercial and BBC radio from the mid-1970s.
The trial continues.