August 2011

Ex-city council leader jailed over years of child sex abuse

FORMER Derby City Council leader Maurice Burgess has been jailed for five years for child sex offences.

Ex-Liberal Democrat leader Burgess has admitted indecently assaulting four boys, aged seven to 11 years old, between 1989 and 1994.

The offences came to light after one of Burgess’ victims phoned asking him to admit that he had abused him almost 20 years ago.

Burgess, of Porter Road, Normanton, initially denied the offences but then confessed to a police officer who was part of his church congregation.

The 63-year-old then told police there had been three other victims, who confirmed the offences when officers contacted them.

Burgess admitted 11 offences of indecently assaulting a boy under the age of 14.

This is not the first time Burgess has been convicted of sexually abusing boys. In 2006, he was given a suspended sentence for indecently assaulting a seven-year-old boy in 1983.

During this previous court case it was revealed that in 1971 he was ordered to pay a £25 fine after admitting a similar offence.

The revelation sparked the Derby Telegraph’s “Anything to Declare?” campaign, asking election candidates to reveal previous convictions.

Yesterday at Derby Crown Court, Judge John Burgess said it was clear the defendant’s actions had altered the victims’ lives “very much for the worse”.

He said: “You used your respectability to gain trust, not only with the children but with their parents.

“You knew you were attracted to pre-pubescent boys. To use your own words, you groomed them and put them in a position where it was easy for you to abuse that trust and abuse them, and you did it repeatedly over a period of years and to some boys as often as weekly.”

Burgess, who was a city council candidate at the time, would invite boys back to his home to play on his computer and read magazines.

The victim, who contacted the police in this latest case, said that he would see Burgess’ face on election flyers and knew that he was well-respected in the local community and helped organise children’s camping trips.

He told officers that Burgess had indecently assaulted him on four occasions when he was 11 and had been playing on the computer. The victim had been frozen with fear, said prosecutor James McNamara .

He added: “It caused him years of anguish and hurt.”

Another victim cried when police contacted him to say Burgess had confessed to abusing him between the ages of seven and nine. Mr McNamara said: “He remembered going to the defendant’s home and playing on a computer game. Burgess would make him food and then say ‘time to go upstairs for a hug’.” He told this victim that he was the “cute one” and his “favourite” before abusing him on his bed.

The court heard that this victim had never gone to the police because he was afraid of bringing shame on his family and being bullied.

The court heard Burgess had told the victim who contacted him in October last year to call the police because he was worried about being blackmailed again.

When Burgess was convicted in 2006, it was revealed his victim had been blackmailing him and had gone to the police only when his abuser’s money had run out.

Yesterday, the court heard the latest victim had not intended to blackmail Burgess but had just wanted to hear him confess.

Clive Stockwell, in mitigation, said that if Burgess had admitted the abuse on the phone to the victim then he might not have gone to the police and the case would have gone no further. The judge said he realised it was “most unlikely” the three other victims would have come to light if Burgess had not made confessions to the police.

Mr Stockwell said that when Burgess was in his early 40s he had given way to his “urges”. He said: “He concedes that he was instrumental in creating situations with boys and he abused them.

“In the years that followed the urges were suppressed or controlled by him.”

Burgess was elected as a councillor in 1994 and remained one for 12 years. He was the Liberal Democrat leader of Derby City Council from 2003 until July 2005.

Judge Burgess said: “It is a fact that in the last 20 years you have done a great deal of very good work.”

Burgess must obey a sexual offences prevention order, which includes not seeking the contact of or living in the same home as any child under the age of 16. He must sign the sex offenders’ register and is banned from working with children.

Rise and fall of one-time city leader

HE may have experienced many highs during his time in Derby but, last night, self-confessed child abuser Maurice Burgess hit a new low – jailed for five years for paedophilia.

Yesterday was the third time he had appeared in court for molesting young boys. The first time, in the 1970s, he was fined; the second time, in 2006, he walked away with only a suspended jail sentence.

In between those offences, he acted as leader of Derby City Council, having failed to declare the very first conviction when he stood as a councillor in Littleover.

Born in Peterborough in 1948, Burgess joined the Young Liberal Democrats at the age of 16.

As a young man he dropped out of training to be an Anglican priest. Later, he attended a teacher-training course, but left that too, in an effort to concentrate on politics.

A previously well-respected member of the community, Burgess moved to Derby in 1971 – the year of his first offence.

Two years later, he founded Derby Children’s Friendship Group, providing free holidays for the city’s most needy children. It was later renamed Derby Kids’ Camp, although Burgess did not volunteer on trips after 1997.

The Normanton politician was an active member of St Chad’s Church, Derby, where he helped to set up the Number One Community Centre, in St Chad’s Road, which provided support for homeless people.

For three years he worked at Ranby’s – which became Debenhams – in Victoria Street, then was waste management officer at Acetate Products, in Spondon.

But politics, it appeared, was always his main passion.

For a long time, he campaigned for a seat on Derby City Council, standing on 24 occasions. Finally he succeeded in Littleover, in 1994.

In 2002, he gave up that seat and fought instead for the newly formed Abbey ward, where he was elected.

The following year, Burgess got the most important political job – leader of the city council – after Labour lost overall control. His Lib Dem group formed a coalition with the Conservatives to take power.

Burgess spoke out on many issues during his time at the forefront of local politics.

He campaigned against the decision to add Nottingham to the name East Midlands Airport and expressed his disappointment with the move, which was later reversed.

He also stepped in to appeal for jobs to remain in Derby when the National Rail Enquiries call centre was moved to India.

And Burgess wrote to the Home Office urging it to allow failed asylum seekers to work until they were deported.

Controversy was caused, however, when he suggested that a replacement for the famous Florentine boar statue should be placed in the River Gardens, instead of in its original home at Arboretum Park, to avoid offending the Muslim population.

His time as leader was to last a little over two years.

Asaf Afzal’s victory in the Abbey ward by-election, following the resignation of former councillor Ann Jackman, saw Labour regain the council.

Burgess was replaced as leader by Labour’s Chris Williamson. He not only lost power, but he also saw his council allowance plunge from £36,446.60 as council leader to £15,945.39, as leader of the council’s largest opposition party.

Then, within a month, police launched an investigation into allegations of indecent assault on a child.

In October, 2005, that investigation became public knowledge and Burgess was quickly suspended by the Lib Dems.

Ahead of his trial, Burgess told the Derby Telegraph: “All I can say at the moment is that I’m protesting my innocence.”

Councillor Hilary Jones took over as party leader and Burgess continued as an independent until he stepped down the following May.

In a rare council appearance in late 2005, after he had been suspended, Burgess succeeded in getting the city centre alcohol-free zone extended.

But his fall from grace was completed when, in December 2006, at the start of a three-day trial over the child abuse charge, he changed his plea to guilty – despite his earlier denial.

He had been charged with abusing the boy, on one occasion, between April 1983 and April 1984. The child was “touched indecently” after visiting the future councillor’s home to help fold political leaflets.

It was then revealed that the offence was not his first. The court was told he was handed a £25 fine after admitting a similar offence, this time on an eight-year-old boy, in 1971.

Judge Michael Stokes QC said Burgess’ community work and public service meant an immediate custodial sentence was not necessary.

He walked free from court, being handed a nine-month sentence, suspended for one year, at Nottingham Crown Court.

It was all over for the disgraced politician’s career in public office, but as everyone now knows, it was not the latest chapter of shame.

That came in October last year, when Burgess received a phone call from yet another victim, who was abused in the early 1990s.

He went on to tell police about four children he indecently touched.