A paedophile who used his children's home business as "a front" has been jailed for life.
John Allen, 73, was convicted by a jury at Mold Crown Court last week of committing historical sexual offences against 18 boys and one girl, aged between seven and 15, at his residential care properties in and around Wrexham, North Wales, between 1968 and 1991.
Allen, who had no child care qualifications when he set up his company named Bryn Alyn Community, must serve a minimum of 11 years in jail before he can be considered for release.
Sentencing Allen, Mr Justice Openshaw said: "There have no doubt been more prolific offenders but seldom can there be so many grave offences committed on so many victims over a long period of time, causing so much anguish and misery."
He said that, "remarkable as it may seem", there were no regulations requiring Allen to have formal training "in those far-off days".
Allen passed himself off as a successful businessman, the judge said, but added: "It was, as we now know, a front."
At its height, 120 boys were sent into Allen's care at Bryn Alyn by 14 different local authorities, with many coming from across the country, said the judge.
Later some girls were also given accommodation, the court heard.
Mr Justice Openshaw said most of the complainants came from "dysfunctional, chaotic" backgrounds and were in need of care and protection.
Instead they were subjected to a regime of violence and intimidation ran by a "powerful man" whom one victim described "as like a god".
In what the Crown said was a "highly sexualised atmosphere", Allen committed many of his offences in the presence of other boys but no-one spoke out because of their fear and isolation.
Most of the abuse took place at three homes - Bryn Alyn, Pentre Saeson and Bryn Terion.
Allen, of Foxglove Avenue, Needham Market, Ipswich, Suffolk, was given a discretionary life sentence for seven serious sexual assaults.
He received concurrent terms of 10 years for 23 indecent assaults and two years for an act of gross indecency with a child.
He was cleared of two other serious sexual assaults.
The jury could not reach verdicts on three counts of indecent assault and one count of indecency with a child. All those charges were allowed to lie on file.
Allen denied all the offences at his six-week trial.
John McDermott QC, for the defendant, said: "Mr Allen maintains his innocence of all charges."
The comment drew gasps from some of the many complainants who were in court for sentencing.
Allen also maintains that there was a miscarriage of justice when he was convicted in 1996 of indecently assaulting six boys, aged between 12 and 16, at his care homes in the 1970s, and was jailed for six years.
Allen showed no emotion as he was led from the dock.
In 1996 the Waterhouse Inquiry was launched to look at the issue of abuse of children in care in the Gwynedd and Clwyd areas and it was published in 2000.
Further complainants came forward in November 2001 and Allen was charged with serious sexual allegations relating to a number of boys.
But the case did not proceed because of a technicality which does not exist today.
It is understood a Crown Court judge ruled that Allen would not receive a fair trial because of previous publicity about his convictions.
But he was re-arrested and charged by officers from the National Crime Agency's ongoing Operation Pallial inquiry into historical sexual abuse at care homes in North Wales after a complaint about him in November 2012, which then led to more complainants coming forward.
The judge said there were "recurring themes" when all of the complainants were asked why they did not speak out at the time.
Among the reasons given were the atmosphere of fear and intimidation, and a complaints procedure which was headed by Allen himself.
Victims said they had no-one to complain to in effect, with many not in contact with their familes and none viewing their social workers as allies.
And if they did complain they thought that no-one would believe them , the court heard.
Mr Justice Openshaw said: "Complaints were made with social workers and from time to time with the police but these were never investigated.
"These complaints were dismissed as, literally, incredible."
He said on the evidence heard in court the systems of supervising and monitoring at Bryn Alyn had been "wholly inadequate".
The judge said: "The fact is the boys did not complain because they knew it would pointless to do so and it gave the belief that the defendant was untouchable."
He said he had read the 19 victim impact statements with many describing to him the struggle of coming to terms of what Allen had done to them.
"Some of the complainants have led sad and troubled lives," he said.
"Some have had nervous breakdowns. A number have attempted suicide. Some have been in prison."
One victim said Allen "had been with him for every second of his life", another said Bryn Alyn had "f***** my life up" after he turned to drink and became homeless, while Mr Justice Openshaw said one victim told the jury "with infinite sadness" that "it was if they had taken my manhood".
Many spoke positively though about the way they had treated by the justice system after coming forward and felt vindicated by the jury's verdicts, the court heard.
Jon Brown, NSPCC lead for tackling sexual abuse, said: "John Allen's reign of terror over a dark period of several decades puts him high up the scale of the most prolific child abusers of recent times and his sentence quite rightly reflects the severity of his despicable crimes.
"Instead of nurturing the vulnerable children in his care he abused his power and subjected them to constant, horrendous sexual attacks. His manipulative and devious behaviour allowed him to hide behind a shroud of respectability while his helpless victims suffered intense emotional trauma. Allen was able to evade justice for so long because he created an atmosphere of terror where no one was able to oppose him and where he effectively silenced his victims.
"While his crimes may have been committed many years ago there are still children facing the horrors of sexual abuse so we would urge any adult who needs help or has information to call the NSPCC's free helpline number - 0808 800 5000. Children can call ChildLine on 0800 1111."