Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Ex-BBC man 'a predatory paedophile'

Michael Souter is standing trial after pleading not guilty to a series of historic sex attacks on boys

A former BBC presenter has been dubbed a "predatory paedophile" after being found guilty of a string of child sex offences spanning two decades.

Ex-BBC Norfolk and former Radio Clyde broadcaster Michael Souter has been convicted of a campaign of sexual abuse against seven boys aged between 11 and 16 between 1979 and 1999.

The broadcaster was first arrested by police in 1993 but because of a lack of evidence against him he continued abusing boys for another six years.

A Norwich Crown Court spokeswoman confirmed that Souter had been found guilty of 26 charges including indecent assault, indecency with a child, serious sexual offences, and seven counts of possessing indecent images of children.

Prosecutors described Souter, who was also involved in the Scouts and a social services youth mentoring scheme, as a "sexual deviant" who was obsessed with young boys in shorts and uniform.

During the trial, prosecutor Andrew Shaw told jurors that the 60-year-old, of Low Bungay Road, Loddon, Norfolk, used his celebrity status to abuse society's most vulnerable.

The detective who led the investigation has described it as "one of the worst cases of prolonged child abuse" that he has ever dealt with.

Souter was first made known to police in 1993 after one boy made a complaint of abuse.

Norfolk Police said they arrested and interviewed the broadcaster and handed a file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) - who deemed there was insufficient evidence to bring a case.

A further two people made complaints against him in 2002 - when Souter was living out of the country.

Police applied for a European Arrest Warrant to be issued but the request was declined, a Norfolk Police spokeswoman said.

In 2010, a man who was abused by Souter in the 1980s and 1990s reported the crimes to the police.

The man also passed along the details of two other victims of abuse.

As a result, Souter was subsequently arrested once again in June 2011.

The trial heard that witnesses had felt unable to come forward because of Souter's high standing in the community.

Mr Shaw told the court: "He worked in radio and television and was something of a local celebrity.

"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.

"We say Mr Souter is a deviant sexual abuser of young boys, particularly boys in uniform and those wearing shorts."

Souter had denied the offences saying that he was the victim of a conspiracy in which allegations against him were made up.

Originally from Scotland, he worked as a producer and presenter in both commercial and BBC radio since the mid-1970s.

He had previously presented for Radio Clyde.

Since 1989 he has worked as a freelance broadcaster and had run a media relations consultancy.

Police said that Souter's catalogue of abuse began in 1979 when he worked at BBC Radio Norfolk.

Detectives said that d uring the 1980s and 1990s, Souter's abuse escalated as he took up senior positions within the community, including as a Scout leader.

They said that the broadcaster used his position in the Scouts to single out boys for special treatment which then developed into indecent assault.

Two of the boys were "repeatedly abused" over five years, including being raped, police said.

Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Inspector Paul Brown, said: "It is fair to say that this is one of the worst cases of prolonged child abuse I have ever dealt with.

"Souter exploited his local celebrity status and connections to gain access to children, and this also provided him with the perfect cover for his offending as he appeared to be an upstanding member of the community whom no-one would challenge.

"He conned so many people who will no doubt be shocked to hear how the man they trusted was actually grooming and molesting young boys over many years.

"The evidence we presented is damning, yet Souter continues to deny what he has done and has put his victims through reliving his offending in court.

"I commend these men for having the bravery to come forward and talk about what happened to them; Souter committed some truly awful crimes and these men have lived with the memory of this for decades.

"We are keenly awaiting his sentencing and I hope this will give them some closure.

"Whilst Souter clearly preyed on children who were at their most vulnerable, this case should serve to highlight to anyone who may be perpetrating similar acts today that one day their victims will have the strength to turn the tables as we have seen here."

Chris McCann, h ead of the CPS's complex casework unit for the East of England said: "Michael Souter is the classic example of the predatory paedophile who devoted most of his adult life to grooming and abusing young boys while maintaining a facade of the utmost respectability.

"Souter presented himself to people as a local celebrity from radio and television, happy to be involved in charity events, the Scout movement and as a youth mentor for Norfolk Social Services.

"All this was a smokescreen to hide his true intention: to become close to young boys so he could sexually abuse them, confident that his celebrity status would mean they would not be believed.

"This is the tactic of the classic predatory paedophile who hides behind a facade of respectability to carefully select and groom his victims then subject them to repeated sexual assaults over a period of time."

A BBC spokeswoman said: " The crimes that Michael Souter has been found guilty of today are truly shocking and the BBC condemns them in the strongest possible terms.

"Michael Souter has not worked for the BBC since the early 1990s."

A Scout Association spokesman 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.

"The Scout Association has co-operated fully with the statutory agencies throughout this case. We can confirm that he will never be allowed to work within the Scout Movement again.

"The Scout Association carries out stringent vetting of all adults who work with young people and requires them to work to a strict code of practice outlined in the Young People First Code of Practice."

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