Ex-Scout leader jailed for six years

IAN CLARKE A former Scout master and pillar of the community who abused boys over a 30-year period was today jailed for six years.Norwich Crown Court heard harrowing accounts of the horrific indecent assaults carried out by Roy Mercer, 64, on three boys between the 1950s and 1980s.

IAN CLARKE

A former Scout master and pillar of the community who sexually abused boys over a 30-year period was today jailed for six years.

Norwich Crown Court heard harrowing accounts of the “despicable” assaults carried out by Roy Mercer, 64, on three boys between the 1950s and 1980s. The boys were aged between four and 16 at the time of the offences.

They came to light last year after two victims plucked up the courage to come forward and report what had happened. The third contacted police after reading about the case in the EDP.

Mercer, of Stone Road, Dereham, who is well known in the Dereham area for his involvement in Scouting, football refereeing and with Dereham Band, had initially denied a string of accusations against him.

But he pleaded guilty to 31 sex offences and jailing him, Judge Paul Downes said he had “taken advantage of his position.”

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“You were a Scout leader in an organisation which has many admirable qualities and you have disgraced those who work in the department.”

Mercer admitted 20 offences of indecent assault on males under 14 years, 10 offences of indecent assault on males under 16 and one other serious sexual offence.

The first victim, a man now in his 50s, was assaulted over a six year period between 1957 and 1963. The second victim, who is also in his 50s, was assaulted between 1958 and 1969. The third victim, now in his 40s, was assaulted between 1976 and 1982.

The court was told of the lasting impact the abuse has had on them.

Mercer was also put on the sex offenders' register for life and banned from ever working with children again.

One of the victims had been a member of the Scout group Mercer ran and the other two had been the younger brothers of one of his friends he knew through Scouts.

Mercer denied six counts of indecent assault on a girl under the age of 14 and those charges will lie on the file.

In a statement one of the victims said: “My family have supported me through this process. It was not easy talking to them about the abuse but it had to be done before I could make a complaint to the police. My family have been remarkable, I could not have hoped for a better reaction from them. I was afraid of the hurt that these events would have on them and at first did not want to put them through that hurt. I have had support from all those that I have spoken to and have been spoken of as being brave, and have always received understanding when I have talked about my previous attempts to shut these events away in the back of my brain and to leave them undisclosed and the fact that I felt unable to alert them to the events at the time.”

One of the other victims said: “I would like to thank the police from the bottom of my heart for believing in me, and the other victims and for bringing this case to its rightful conclusion.”

The officer in charge of the investigation, Det Con Amanda Adcock, of Norfolk Police's Family Protection Unit at Swaffham, said: “Roy Mercer was placed in a position of trust with the families that he had contact with and, by many people, was seen as a highly respected individual.

“He disregarded this by preying on three individuals when they were children - despicable acts which took place over a long period of time. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the victims and their families for coming forward and dealing with the case with a great deal of integrity, dignity and patience. “

A statement from the Scout Association issued after the case said: “The Scout Association is aware of the court proceedings involving Roy Mercer.

“The Scout Association has co-operated fully with the statutory agencies throughout their inquiries. Mercer has not been a member of The Scout Association since the 1980's.

“The Scout Association condemns the actions of this former member.

“At that time he betrayed the trust placed in him by parents, by other volunteers and by the Scout Movement. There is no place in the Movement for anyone who abuses that trust or seeks to harm young people. We are pleased he has been punished for his crimes.

The statement continued: “Scouting is a values based organisation, which works for and on behalf of its youth members.

“The Scout Association carries out stringent vetting of all adults who work with young people and requires them to work to strict guidelines outlined in the 'Young People First' Code of Good Practice. See www.scoutbase.org.uk/hq/child-protection/ypf.htm .