Marie Black Case: Ten people abused young children for over a decade, Norwich court hears
- Credit: Archant
Ten seemingly respectable people - including six women - subjected young children to sexual and physical abuse over more than a decade, prosecutors have told a court.
Much of the abuse is said to have centred around Marie Black, 33, from Norwich, who denies 26 offences, including four counts of rape and two of conspiracy to rape, at Norwich Crown Court.
Prosecutor Angela Rafferty QC said jurors would hear that Black, previously known as Marie Adams, played an instrumental role in using the five children as 'sexual play-things'.
All of the defendants, aged between 31 and 85, deny abusing the children, saying the allegations were concocted by Norfolk County Council's children's services department.
Mrs Rafferty said: 'Many of the defendants have become good at appearing normal and respectable.
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'This is what you would have to do in order to be child abusers to the extent alleged here.'
The abuse, which is said to have happened in and around Norwich and London, is alleged to have included forcing children to have sex with one another.
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On some occasions, the adults threw parties and played card games to decide who would abuse which child, Mrs Rafferty said.
In interviews the victims described how they were abused in front of one another and other adults. Some of the abuse involved children's toys, including Barbie dolls.
The abuse allegedly became so routine that the victims came to accept it as normal.
Mrs Rafferty said: 'They were very young and, we say, had been treated dreadfully throughout their lives.
'You will hear that one of the children did not realise that sexual contact between adults and children wasn't normal.
'Children cannot endure the level of abuse you will hear about without consequences.
'You will hear of the distress and fear shown by some of the youngsters when revealing slowly and painfully over a long time the extent of their treatment.'
Social workers raised concerns after noticing various infections and sexualised behaviour among the children.'
Social services mistakes
Mrs Rafferty accepted mistakes were made by social services. One particular social worker - Gail Barnard - has been criticised for unwisely 'getting too close to the case' and 'interfering with documents'.
But she said any suggestion the allegations were made up was 'nonsense'.
'The foster carers and social workers in this case are going to be heavily criticised by those who defend,' she added.
'It is likely to be said that they are the ones who are responsible for making up allegations against the defendants.
'However, the idea that it is somehow them who planted these memories or got the children to make up these stories is an attempt to deflect you from the dreadful truth.'
Giving a defence opening speech, Sarah Elliott QC, representing Black, said she 'wholeheartedly' refutes that any abuse took place, adding that the children's recollections had never been challenged.
She said it was possible the victims' accounts may have been 'influenced' and 'encouraged' by others.
'Their carers have accepted what they've been told, the social workers have accepted what they've been told, the police have accepted what they've been told,' Ms Elliott said. 'Nobody has challenged them.'
Black also denies charges including neglect and ill-treatment, sexually assaulting children under 13, conspiracy to cause children to watch sexual acts and causing child pornography.
Nine others are accused of offences including rape, child cruelty, causing children under 13 to engage in sexual activity and sexual assault.
They are Michael Rogers, 53, from Defoe Way, Romford; and Jason Adams, 43, from St Faiths Road, Norwich, Carol Stadler, 59, from Atkinson Road, Norwich, Anthony Stadler, 63, from Church Close, Norwich, Nicola Collins, 36, from Lucas Court, Norwich, Andrew Collins, 52, from Lucas Court, Norwich, Judith Fuller, 31, from Gertrude Road, Norwich, Denise Barnes, 43, Wycliffe Road, and Kathleen Adams, 85, from Norwich.