August 2013

You may die in prison, abuser told


A retired school caretaker has been told he may well die in jail after being sentenced to 12 years for a horrific catalogue of abuse against two boys he met through his position at a Preston primary school.

Almost 40 years after the abuse started, Bernard Bannister’s victims are still suffering the psychological effects of their treatment at the hands of the predatory paedophile.

Bannister, now 74, groomed the youngsters and won the trust of their parents before going on to commit hundreds of sexual offences against them.

One of his victims was just nine years old when the school caretaker started abusing him in the late 1970s, on school premises, in his car and at Bannister’s home.

Preston Crown Court heard one of the victims, now in his mid- 40s, has been so traumatised by the effects of the abuse – which lasted until he was around 16 years old – that has made several attempts to take his own life.

Bannister, of Riverside, Bamber Bridge, was employed as a caretaker at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Rigby Street, Ribbleton.

Within weeks of starting his job at the school Bannister began to groom the youngster, offering to take him to see a James Bond film at the cinema.

Over time the caretaker built up a relationship of trust with the boy’s family, offering family members employment and inviting the boy to stay at his house, where he would sexually abuse him.

As the effects of the abuse took hold the troubled youngster became involved in crime and was taken into care.

But during that time, Bannister provided transport for his parents to visit him, while continuing to abuse the boy – who was now in his teens.

In a victim personal statement, the man said he felt as though Bannister “had a hold on his family”.

He said: “I knew something wasn’t right but I was powerless in a way, because I was just a kid. He was the adult and I needed him.”

The man said the abuse had always left him feeling dirty and confused about his sexuality, and has caused great difficulties in his family relationships.

The second man was abused for a period of two years by Bannister in the 1990s, when he was 14 to 15 years old.

Francis McEntee, prosecuting, said the boy would visit Bannister’s home to escape a difficult home life.

Bannister would buy him treats and gifts, on one occasion treating the youngster to a new bike.

Mr McEntee said the former caretaker would show his victims pornography to “normalise” the abuse they suffered.

The man, who is now in his 30s, was so affected by his childhood he moved away from the Preston area.

Bannister was arrested in October 2011 and denied any sexual contact with the youngsters.

He later admitted 16 counts of sexual offending reflecting a pattern of abuse against the two boys,

Throughout the court proceedings, Bannister sat with his back turned to the public gallery where his victims and their families sat.

Rick Holland, defending, said; “There is probably precious little I can say in any sense that is going to bring any comfort to his victims.”

He asked the judge to take into account Bannister’s age and guilty please when passing sentence.

Judge Andrew Woolman, sentencing, told Bannister: “You may die in prison. Another way of looking at it is you got away with it for a very long time.”