December 2000

Pervert jailed

A PERVERT who subjected a schoolgirl to a six-year “campaign” of sex abuse has been jailed for nine years.

Burnley Crown Court heard how voluntary worker Peter Sunderland, 60, repeatedly raped the child, attacked her if she refused his demands and threatened to hurt a member of her family if she told anybody what was going on.

Sunderland, who still protested his innocence despite being convicted by a jury, and had claimed the girl was suffering from false memory syndrome, has already lodged an appeal against conviction.

Sentencing him, Judge Raymond Bennett said he had systematically abused the girl and if it was not the worst such case he had heard, it was not far short.

He added that the victim would have to carry what happened with her for the rest of her life and the public abhorred people who mistreated children.

Sunderland, of Grange Street, Burnley, was found guilty of six counts of rape, three of a serious sex offence and one of gross indecency, committed between 18 and 24 years ago. Kathryn Johnson, prosecuting, said the victim was now in her 30s and the offences took place when she was aged between 10 and 16, in the Burnley area.

Miss Johnson said Sunderland bought an old ambulance and began to abuse the child in that, threatening the girl into meeting him so that he could rape her.

She said the victim was occasionally assaulted by Sunderland if she refused to allow him to have sex with her and on one occasion, she went to hospital with a broken nose.

Miss Johnson added the victim reported what had happened to her to the police in 1999 and when the defendant was interviewed, he denied any sexual involvement with the girl.

Peter Buckley, defending, said Sunderland continued to protest his innocence but he had to be sentenced for the offences of which he was convicted by the jury. There was no contrition, no admission of guilt but no self pity on the part of the defendant, he said.

His said Sunderland was a devoted father to his disabled daughter who was due to face major surgery and the tears he had shed were not for himself but for the plight of his partner and their paralysed child. He continued to fret about them and his concern was for the situation they were in.

He said since the offences, the defendant had lived an exemplary life, had committed himself to 24 care for the child and had looked after his family.

Mr Buckley said Sunderland had been a voluntary worker at Burnley’s Vanguard Community Centre and was also a member of the management committee.