January 2018

Paedophile subjected victim to ‘eight horrendous years’ of abuse

A WOMAN who was sexually abused by a former school caretaker for eight years has urged other victims of historical sex crimes to “be strong, come forward and don’t let them get away with it”.

Robert Stephens, of St Michael’s Road, South Ham, was jailed for nine years at Winchester Crown Court on Thursday, 4 January after being found guilty on eight counts of historical abuse dating back to 1974.

Stephens, 80, who was convicted in November, subjected his victim to “eight horrendous years” – only stopping when she entered her teenage years.

The court heard that Stephens would groom his victim with sweets and money, before taking her to his caretaking job at a school at weekends where he abused her.

The victim, who cannot be named, told The Gazette: “I feel so much relief that this is finally over; I can get on with the rest of my life. The message I would give to others who have faced historic sexual abuse is to come forward.

“Be strong, you really have to be, but do come forward, don’t let the people get away with it.

“I’m happy Stephens has been brought to justice, just time will fix this now.”

In an impact statement read by prosecutor Simon Foster, the victim said: “His abuse carried on for eight horrendous years and it has never left me.

“It has affected my life in multiple different ways and it has stopped me from forming loving relationships.

“Stephens knew I was a vulnerable young girl and he used that as a means to fulfil his own pleasure, but I am not that same vulnerable young girl anymore, I am now a woman.”

The court heard how the victim had developed asthma during the time that she was abused and would often have to stay in hospital as a result. She described being in hospital as the ‘best times’ because she was away from her abuser.

The court heard how the victim has raised four children but became an extremely protective parent as she feared they would go through the same abuse she did.

In sentencing Stephens, Judge Jane Miller QC said: “You used your position as a caretaker of a school to take her there and abuse her, you knew she was a vulnerable young girl and you used it to your advantage.

“You took those years from her and the court has heard how this has affected the rest of her life. She needs closure.

“You are in poor health, but prisons are well-equipped to deal with that. Your mental health issues have been caused by these proceedings. You may well die in prison.”

Judge Miller sentenced Stephens to a total of nine years in prison and ordered him to sign the sex offenders register.