Febuary 2009

‘Dangerous’ paedophile ‘took away our childhood’

A WOMAN molested by convicted Plymouth paedophile John Springall when she was a child has called for other victims to come forward.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, made her appeal after Springall, aged 78, was jailed for seven years for sexually assaulting two little girls in the 1960s and 1970s.

Following the sentencing yesterday at Exeter Crown Court by Judge Philip Wassall, she said: “John Springall took away our childhood, and we have continued to suffer throughout our lives from what he did.

“It took great strength for all four of us to give evidence; now we need his other victims out there to come forward so the full extent of his offending will come out.”

His victims believe other women were abused as young girls, and that Springall visited foreign countries as a ‘sex tourist’, though he has never been charged with overseas offences.

Springall was also jailed for a year for possessing thousands of photos of child abuse, including one extreme image bought during a trip to an Amsterdam sex shop many years ago.

Springall was born in Gosport in 1931 but lived for 10 years in a council property at Anthony Gardens, Pennycross.

Wearing a grey jacket and white, open-necked shirt, white-haired Springall listened attentively but without apparent emotion as prosecutor Robert Linford described how police searched his home last year.

On his computer and downloaded onto discs, they found 2,755 images of child abuse: 2,249 in the least serious category 1, 61 in category 2, 298 in category 3, 141 in category 4 and six in category 5, the most serious.

Mr Linford said: “The images in some cases were of the worst sort, with children being degraded, raped and indecently assaulted.

“They ranged from erotic poses up to the most terrible sadistic abuse, involving torture and bestiality.”

Springall admitted possessing the images, but told police he had “no real sexual interest in children”.

Following publicity, four women came forward alleging that Springall had sexually abused them as young girls.

At a five-day trial last December, he was convicted of assaulting two of the girls when they were aged between four and 11 in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but acquitted of assaulting two other girls.

Ali Rafati, for Springall, said the “unpleasant” acts were committed 35 years ago, and a man of his age convicted of these offences would face a difficult time in prison.

He said that while category 5 images were “vile” and the other images “distasteful and illegal”, the court had seen many cases involving more photos in higher categories.

He said the only aggravating feature was Springall’s systematic storage of the material, showing “a high level of personal interest”.

He added: “The indecent assaults ceased 35 years ago, and while his victims have been damaged by living with what happened to them, he has resisted the urge to touch for the last 35 years.”

Judge Wassall said: “The category 4 and 5 images really represent child pornography of the worst kind, with children being violently raped and tortured.”

He said the first victim had been abused by Springall so many times that she couldn’t remember, and his convictions against his second victim were only specimen counts representing many incidents.

He told Springall: “During the trial, it became clear that you had a deep-rooted interest in sex with children, and your denial was transparently self-delusional.”

The judge agreed with an assessment which said: “He sees children as legitimate sexual beings, and they don’t mind sexual activity”, adding: “Your mind-set is that of a dangerous paedophile.”

He imposed jail terms totalling seven years for the sexual assaults on the two women, with one year concurrent for possessing the indecent images, a total of seven years less 61 days spent on remand.

He also imposed what he called “a highly restrictive Sexual Offences Prevention Order, imposed in a Draconian way”.

Outside the court, a police spokesman said: “All witnesses and victims showed great strength and courage in coming forward.

“This was a lengthy investigation involving many officers which was fully supported by Victim Support and Twelves Company – which offers support to victims of abuse.

“I support the judge’s words when he said Springall has a deep-rooted sexual interest in children and is a dangerous paedophile in the community.

“I hope the bravery these victims have shown throughout their ordeal will inspire other victims to come forward. The police will always fully investigate allegations of abuse and victims should be reassured they will be treated with sensitivity and offered full support.”