Febuary 2007

Cruel foster care couple jailed

A foster carer has been jailed for four years for beating girls she looked after and her husband has been given a three-year jail term for sexual abuse.

Betty Roe, 64, of Hall Road, Norwich, who cared for about 280 children in the 1970s and 80s, denied cruelty charges.

Walter Roe, 64, admitted four counts of indecent assault and was put on the Sex Offenders Register for life.

The jury at Norwich Crown Court heard girls had been beaten with sticks, a slipper and a broom.

‘Virtual slaves’

Stephen Spence, prosecuting, said Betty Roe had portrayed herself as a God-fearing, respectable figure.

But, he said, behind closed doors she was deliberately cruel to the children, regularly beating them with anything that came to hand.

The court heard that the catalogue of abuse included keeping the children short of food, making them “virtual slaves” by performing household chores and starving them of affection.

Judge Paul Downes said: “Foster parents are unsung heroes of the system and take on difficult children from deprived backgrounds and no-one would want to take away their achievements.

“What you have done is besmirch that reputation. You looked after vulnerable children and what you did seriously breached that trust.

“The worst part of this case is the fact that these young people had to go through the business of explaining in some detail in a court full of strangers the humiliation and the beatings that they suffered.”

Judge Downes said the victims had described their plight as a “living nightmare”.

Norfolk County Council, which employed the Roes, welcomed the sentences and said the Roes were guilty of a serious abuse of trust.

Lisa Christensen, director of children’s services, said: “Both Mr and Mrs Roe were subject to appropriate checks required at the time – more than 30 years ago – before being allowed to become foster carers by then Norwich County Borough Council in early 1973.

“Nothing arose from those checks to have debarred the Roes.

“These days, potential foster carers are subject to much more stringent checking before being appointed and their behaviour is carefully monitored and subject to an annual review once they are approved.”

It has also emerged that, at the height of their abuse, the couple were put forward by Norfolk Social Services for a newspaper article which dubbed them model foster parents.

The article, published in 1989, bore the headline “Betty’s a mother to hundreds”.