September 2013

Former choirmaster jailed for indecent assault

lillis

A former teacher and choirmaster of a Woking church has been jailed for six years after being convicted of attempted buggery and indecent assaults on teenage boys.

John Lillis was found guilty at Guildford Crown Court in August of one count of attempted buggery, as well as two counts of indecent assault against two boys under the age of 16.

He had previously pleaded guilty to four other counts of indecent assault committed between 1973 and 1982.

During his sentencing last Friday (September 6), prosecutor Jennifer Gray said Lillis had been looking at child pornography up until the day before he was arrested in June 2012.

During his trial, the court heard Lillis, a teacher at St Dunstan’s Catholic Primary School in Woking at the time of the offences, was allowed to continue in his role as choirmaster and organist at the twinned St Dunstan’s Catholic Church for 20 years after first admitting he had abused the boys.

The 63-year-old, now of Arthur Road, Windsor, was confronted in 1989 about the offences, jurors were told.

Lillis admitted to St Dunstan’s church bosses that he had touched the two boys and assured them it would not happen again.

The Department for Education placed Lillis on a banned list and he was forced to resign as a teacher and choirmaster in 1989.

But despite this he continued to live in his church-subsidised property in Woking and returned to his post as choirmaster a year later, the court heard.

Victims praised

It was not until 2011 that Lillis was finally removed from his positions within the church and he was arrested in June the following year.

On Friday, defence counsel Richard Button said it was unfortunate for all concerned that, given Lillis’s previous admissions, he was not prosecuted earlier.

“One consequence is that he has lived in fear of a knock on the door for several years,” Mr Button added.

“He was a man of good character with no convictions before or since.

“He lost his previous good name of course many years ago.”

Mr Button said there was no physical violence used or threatened in the indecent assaults.

Lillis was also placed on the sex offenders’ register indefinitely.

Following the sentencing, Detective Constable Paul Carpenter said: “This sentence reflects the severity of the abuse which Lillis meted out to his victims.

“I hope the result will give closure and go some way in helping his victims move on with their lives and begin to have hope for their futures.

“They are to be commended for their courage and fortitude in coming forward and pursuing this prosecution after many years.

“This has been a lengthy investigation which has been bravely supported by the victims and I would encourage any victims of abuse to come forward to Surrey Police and report any similar incidents.”