I thought I was, by now, pretty much inured to the shock of what some people will do. Not so.
There were five men in front of us, all of them over the age of 60, jointly charged with conspiracy to commit the offence of sexual grooming of a child contrary to Section 15 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. In addition each defendant was charged, either individually or jointly, with specific offences under the same Act. The alleged victims aged between six and eleven years. I failed to tot up precisely how many individual alleged victims but can be sure that there were more than a dozen and less than twenty.
All five of the defendants stood in the dock, at times impassive or at other times actively leering. They made the whole Court room feel somewhat grubby.
They all chose to give no indication as to guilt and, although the conspiracy charge is indictable only, the individual Section 15 charges are either way and the Court had to sit through a litany of the most cynical, depraved, warped examples of human degradation and fantasy that I can remember hearing for a long time. In fact, the prosecutor seemed on the verge of being physically ill at one point but we had to hear it all as a decision had to be made regarding venue for each charge. Four out of five of those in the dock appeared to be revelling in the repetition of the evidence we were hearing. In addition we heard that all five have previous convictions for similar offences. There was a mass of photographic evidence as well but we were spared those images other than a very small sample.
Unusually, there were no charges of sexual assault or rape which leads me to believe that this was a purely commercial setup.
We decided that all the specific alleged offences were sufficiently serious for us to refuse jurisdiction and send them to the Crown Court along with the conspiracy charge. For certain reasons, the cases will continue in a Crown Court outwith the Black Country.
I have grave misgivings about the effect this evidence will have on the Jury, bearing in mind that we only had a prÃ©cis of the events that gave rise to the charges, if the defendants eventually plead not guilty and all charges go to trial, which I have every reason to believe will be the case. God alone knows what effect this will have on the alleged victims and their families.
Oh well, another sleepless night for me I suspect
Don't you wish you could un-hear things you've heard at times?