Oct 2009

New Romney railway sex abuse man jailed

A steam railway enthusiast from Kent who took advantage of young boys’ interests in railways to sexually abuse them has been jailed.

Norton Brown, 79,  who had no criminal history, admitted three indecent assaults on boys and two charges of indecency with a child committed in the 1990s.

He was a well-known character on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway and had been a volunteer there for many years.

For the next 10 years he is banned from any railway-related heritage site, museum, tourist attraction or public exhibition, and must not seek work at such places or events when released from the 16-month sentence handed down to him at Canterbury Crown Court.

Steam railways were his life and one of his victims said that separation from them would be ‘enough’.

Brown ran a butcher’s business in Tunbridge Wells, where he lived in Cromwell Road, but was so devoted to the railway, he bought a house on a car park backing onto the railway at New Romney, and set about installing a model railway and videos of steam trains.

“It was a considerable attraction for boys,” said prosecutor Joseph Boothby.

Mr Boothby said boys could stay at Brown’s New Romney house during the summer season and they would sleep in bunk beds with another bed in the room and one boy could also share Brown’s bedroom.

They lived according to quite a strict regime overseen by Brown with an ordered working day and sometimes excursions to other railway attractions.

“It has come to light very recently, although it wasn’t first reported very recently to the slight shame of the police, that the defendant abused his position of trust in relation to certain boys to take advantage while they had been entrusted to his care from the age of 11 or 12 to sexually interfere with them,” said Mr Boothby.

It started with a habit that the bathroom door was never locked and the boys would shower at the end of the day. Sometimes he would join them in the shower or come in as one was leaving.

He assaulted them as they were drying, put his hands down the clothing of one of the boys and assaulted another on a train as it was moving.

Tom Little, for Brown, acknowledged that the offences were serious and passed the custody threshold.

He said Brown had no previous convictions and his age, health and stature – Brown was extremely short – could make prison more difficult. There was no escalation in offending and when the boys asked him to stop, he did.

One of the victims has said what Brown did was wrong and he would like to see him admit it but didn’t want to see him in prison.

His ban from the railway was probably enough given his passion about the railway. Mr Little however did acknowledge that another victim had been affected by Brown’s activities and had to seek help.

Sentencing Brown, Judge Adele Williams said he had taken the opportunity to sexually abuse the boys when the occasion arose and had abused his position of trust.

“You were a steam train enthusiast and devoted a large part of your life to this activity and helping as a volunteer on the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway. The boys were also enthusiasts and lured into your company in this way.”

She took into account all that had been said and gave Brown credit for his admissions but added: “I conclude you show no insight into your offending and as such pose some risk for the future.

“I have no doubt that as far as one of your victims is concerned your offending has had a profound affect on him and he has had to seek help and assistance and that is the mischief of such offending as this.”