Mar 2011

Brave daughters of a child abuser speak out

DENIES OFFENCES: Gary Haggas

CHILD abuser Gary Haggas starts an 18-year prison term today – still denying the terrible crimes which wrecked his two daughters’ childhoods.

The 67-year-old former ice cream man shows no remorse for the litany of sexual abuse he inflicted on his two daughters decades ago.

He begins his long sentence as his victims bravely waive their right to anonymity and launch a campaign to encourage other abuse victims to speak out.

Judge Peter Armstrong told Haggas yesterday: “You’ve devastated their lives and robbed them effectively of a happy childhood.

“And you’ve now got to pay the price for that behaviour.”

Teesside Crown Court heard how he subjected the girls to systematic abuse for years in the 1970s and 1980s, sexually assaulting and raping them.

He molested them in the family homes in Hemlington and Middlesbrough, his car, one of the ice cream vans he operated in the town and their mum’s shop on Parliament Road.

Judge Armstrong said it was “a catalogue of the most appalling offences” against Janet Haggas and Jean Cookson.

The most serious crime was raping the two girls in each other’s presence – an offence which earned him an 18-year jail sentence on its own.

The judge read moving statements about the impact on the girls, now women in their forties, who had to relive their ordeals in the witness box.

He said: “These offences involved a gross abuse of a position of trust as a father. You should have been protecting these girls, not abusing them.

“They were carried out over a long period of time. They were particularly young and vulnerable when it all started.

“The offences were repeated over and over again.

“You continue to deny these offences and so you’ve shown absolutely no remorse whatsoever for what you’ve done.

“You offered sweets to the girls, told them they were your good girls, a form of bribery in my view, typical of paedophile-type behaviour.

“Your daughters have had to live with these offences and knowledge of them for very many, many years.”

Haggas’ had a previous conviction and nine-month prison sentence from 1996 for gross indecency with a boy.

The judge said this indicated “a distorted and perverted interest in sexual offending against children”.

He said it had to be a long sentence to punish him for the “dreadful” offences and show others that such behaviour “simply cannot be tolerated”.

Haggas, of Whingroves, Thornaby, denied all 25 charges against him and took the case to a long trial earlier this year.

The jury unanimously convicted Haggas of seven charges of rape, seven of indecent assault and one of indecency with a child, and cleared him of two rape charges.

He was accused of indecently assaulting another complainant but he was acquitted on all eight of these charges.

Jurors heard the shocking details of the sexual attacks, which started when each of the girls was about seven and carried on into their teens. The trial was told that Haggas was “a controlling and manipulative abuser”.

In both cases, the abuse started as Haggas touched the girls as they sat on his knee, then escalated to worse assaults and repeated rapes.

He abused Janet regularly for about 10 years, raping her on the day of the Queen’s Jubilee in 1977 when she was just 11.

He raped Jean while she was off sick from school and once kept her home to rape her while the rest of the family were in Albert Park.

He said to her she should “do as she was told”, ignoring her protests and saying no, and once gave her a £5 note to try to ensure her silence.

The allegations emerged decades later as a detective was told of the abuse and formal complaints were made.

Haggas denied the offences in police interviews and claimed the women were lying after getting their heads together.

Defence QC Jamie Hill asked the judge for mercy yesterday.

He told the court: “Mr Haggas has consistently denied these offences and of course continues so to do.”

He said the crimes stopped 28 years ago and Haggas’ risk of re-offending had diminished.

The judge did not reduce the sentence because of Haggas’ “infirmity”.

Standing with a walking stick in the dock, Haggas was said to have high blood pressure, hip problems, awaited surgery and took disability benefits.

The judge said reports indicated Haggas, who did voluntary vehicle and maintenance work for his church, posed a risk to children in the future.

He was given a sexual offences prevention order banning him from unsupervised contact with under-18s.

He will be banned from working with children and will be on the sex offenders’ register – all indefinitely.