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Ministry of Defence pays out £2m to settle cadets’ sexual abuse claims

Published December 29, 2014 by misty534

British army military cadets.

The Ministry of Defence has paid out more than £2m in out-of-court settlements over the past three years as a result of claims of sexual abuse against young people within the ranks of the cadet forces.

The allegations included sex abuse rituals performed by teenage boys on younger cadets in their charge, as well as the case of a cadet who was raped and gave birth to her abuser’s child.

Eight payouts, totalling £544,213, were made this year, according to records released in response to a freedom of information request from the Guardian seeking figures for payments for alleged sexual abuse within the Army Cadets, Combined Cadet Force, and Air Cadet Organisation.

The data, which was recorded in a way that did not distinguish between the various cadet groups, shows that £1,475,844 was paid out in five payments in 2012. Payouts in 2013 totalled £64,782 and there were no payouts in 2011.

While some of the settlements reached in the last few years were made to adults for abuse perpetrated when they were children, some are understood to relate to much more recent abuse claims.

Rebecca Sheriff, a senior solicitor at Bolt Burdon Kemp, who has acted for several clients in claims arising from abuse suffered in the Army Cadets at the hands of military staff, said: “It is common practice for sex offenders to seek out positions of authority in organisations such as the Army Cadets, and vulnerable children need to be safeguarded from this risk. It is terrible that often these children have joined the cadets with a view to a career in the armed services, which they are unable to pursue as a result of abuse by people that they should have been able to trust.”

The mother of a boy abused by two older teenage cadets said she had yet to receive an apology from the cadet authorities although they agreed to an out-of-court settlement of just over £23,000.

The abuse of the boy happened at a cadets’ weekend in East Anglia and allegedly involved the two older boys going into a dormitory over the course of a number of nights and lying naked on top of the younger cadets, putting their penises in the boys’ mouths. One youngster was allegedly made to drink coffee laced with urine. She reported the abuse to police, who, she says, interviewed the alleged perpetrators nine months later. They were not charged but were given a warning.

The mother said: “If something like that goes on and is not right then somebody needs to take responsibility, and the cadets had to pay what they paid to compensate for all the hurt … But the two lads have got away with it, they just received warnings, and it was put on file. [The police] said it was bullying and intimidation of a sexual nature – because it wasn’t anything like a rape.”

She added: “I believe that they had been doing it for a while. It makes me sick and saddened inside. It really, really, does. I was told that the cadets had their own internal investigation but I’m not aware of what happened.”

In the period between the incident being reported to police and action being taken to detain the boys, her son, she says, was chased by one of the abusers near his home and subjected to intimidation on Facebook.

“My son had wanted to go into the army to learn a trade and a career. He loved it beforehand, so that was a massive disappointment to him as well. But immediately afterwards he was left with so much guilt. That was what hurt him the most. He was afraid of his own shadow and began to get really, really, angry and became withdrawn and afraid. The effect that it had on my boy, it was so sad for me to see.”

Another out-of-court settlement involved a claimant who was sexually abused by an adult cadet instructor while she was a member of the group. The abuse started when she was 14 and progressed to rape, which led to her becoming pregnant and giving birth to the abuser’s child. After the abuse, she suffered from chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic dysthymia (a form of depression) and a number of complex psychological problems. The MoD admitted liability at an early stage and settled the claim for £210,000.

The settlements made in 2012 include a successful claim for £900,000 by four people who were abused when they were young members of the Army Cadets in Harborne, Birmingham.

Severe sexual abuse was perpetrated by two of the cadet force instructors behind the closed doors of an army hut, rifle range, and at camp. Lawyers for the victims said that abuse was openly acknowledged within what they called “a permissive atmosphere” and appeared accepted as normal.

One of the instructors, Peter Cooper, was convicted of buggery and indecent assault in September 2007 in relation to one of the claimants. At the time of his arrest he was a serving police officer with the West Midlands constabulary. The other instructor is now dead.

An MoD spokesperson said: “We take any allegation of abuse extremely seriously. All adult volunteers undergo enhanced criminal record checks and are made fully aware of their responsibility to protect children from harm. Any suspicion of bullying, harassment or abuse will be dealt with immediately and any allegation of a criminal nature is handed to the police. This is reinforced throughout all safeguarding training.”

Another freedom of information request by the Guardian revealed that 12 allegations – of which 10 were referred to the police – were logged in 2014 by the child protection officer employed by the Army Cadets (which has 46,000 teenage cadets and 8,500 adult volunteers in the UK). The child protection officer has logged more than 36 allegations of sexual abuse since 2011.

Victim tells her shocking story after Worcester pervert is jailed for sex crimes spanning 25 years

Published March 26, 2013 by misty534

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A SEX fiend has been caged for a string of attacks including rape, buggery and sexually assaulting children.

Former bus driver Darren Purchase, aged 45, of Hayfield Road, St John’s, Worcester, staggered unsteadily in the dock as Judge Robert Juckes, QC, sentenced him to 20 years in prison today.

He was found guilty on February 1 of 15 counts of sexual offences against eight different victims over 25 years, ranging from indecent assault on a nine-year-old girl to the systematic rape of a woman in 2009.

Purchase was told he would be in custody until he is aged 64 or 65 and on an extended licence term until he is aged 69 or 70. He will have to sign the sex offenders register indefinitely.

Four of the offences relate to the same male victim when in the late 1980s Purchase groomed a teenage boy and systemically abused him over six years, including raping him on a regular basis.

Through his victim, Purchase befriended a teenage girl who he went on to rape in 1989. He was also found guilty of indecently assaulting two young girls aged nine or 10 in 1984 and 1990 and one young girl over a two-year period between 1990 and 1992.

Between 1990 and 1996, he went on to sexually abuse a woman on many occasions – five of the counts he was found guilty of were for raping her.

One further conviction of rape involved Purchase raping another woman on a number of occasions in 2008 and 2009. The remaining count was for indecently assaulting a woman in 1998.

One of his victims, Helen Alexander, aged 38, who was dragged into his home and sexually assaulted when she was just 10 years old, said of the sentence: “I’m over the moon. I’m really happy. I was told he had a very neutral expression on his face.

“I don’t think he could show any remorse. He’s not capable of remorse. I think it’s a fair sentence. He will be on the sex offender’s register for the rest of his life. I believe other victims will now be protected.

“This shows that people can be convicted – even after 28 years.”

She was originally supposed to give evidence behind a screen but when someone in the witness service did not put the paperwork through she decided to press on anyway, without a screen.

Miss Alexander, now of Wiltshire, said: “I chose not to have the screen. I thought ‘I’m doing this – I have nothing to hide. Why should I have to hide?’”

Judge Juckes said Purchase had carried out a “lifetime of sex abuse” stretching back to the early 1980s when he was a young teenager and must serve at least two thirds of his sentence before he can even be considered for parole.

He had started by sexually assaulting a young girl and then carried out multiple attacks on a young boy he had befriended.

He was aged 19 or 20 at the time and forced the boy, who was 13 and 14, to sniff cellulose thinners from a bag while raping him anally. He carried out further offences against the boy in his mother’s flat above a sweet shop, and in an office block where he worked as a caretaker.

He was given ten years for the offences of buggery and a further three to run concurrently for forcing the boy to engage in another sex act.

James Dunstan, prosecuting, said Purchase had befriended a group of teenagers younger than himself and they looked up to him because he had a car and provided them with food and cigarettes. He raped one of these girls when she was a teenage virgin.

He also sexually assaulted other young girls under 13 after persuading them to take off most of their clothes and indulge in playfighting.

On another occasion, he persuaded a woman to let him massage her and touched her breasts.

Judge Juckes said the women had been “strong and robust witnesses” during the trial who still had a very clear recollection of what Purchase had done to them when they were much younger.

The court heard they had come forward after police had started to investigate a complaint made by the boy, who had suffered from depression, had psychotic episodes and had tried to kill himself in the following years.

One of the victims, Mr Dunstan said, had felt guilty throughout her life that she had not brought up the offence sooner. She said her innocence had been taken away from her and she had become an unruly child.

Judge Juckes said it had been a “remarkable catalogue of sex offending by any standards” but told the court he had decided it did not qualify for a life sentence.

The victim

Helen Alexander, victim of Worcester sex offender Darren PurchaseA COURAGEOUS woman who was sexually assaulted when she was just 10 years old has spoken for the first time of her horrific ordeal.

Helen Alexander, aged 38, bravely waived her right to anonymity to speak about the attack she suffered at the hands of sex beast Darren Purchase on the day he was sentenced to 20 years for a series of horrific assaults, including rapes, on eight victims over 25 years.

The victims of such attacks are granted anonymity for life unless they agree to be named.

Miss Alexander was attacked in 1984 when she lived in Kilbury Drive, Spetchley, Worcester, opposite the family home of Purchase who was then around 16 years of age.

She said: “The whole reason I have waived my anonymity is the hope that other people will now come forward regardless of the time scale, whether they are male or female, old or young and whether they are the victims of abuse, sexual or otherwise.

“Don’t wait 28 years, living with this. It has been so harrowing.”

She remembers even then Purchase was big for his age and she would see him riding his bike, wearing what she described as large thick-rimmed ‘Starsky and Hutch-style’ glasses.

She knew him to speak to but had little other contact with him when he beckoned her over and started talking about his old school, mentioning a teacher neither of them liked.

She said: “I was quite an outgoing child and said to him ‘why do you bloody well want to know that?’ He said ‘if you swear again, I’m going to smack your bum. Being the confident person I am I said ‘I can bloody do what I like’.”

It was at that point he grabbed her by the arms, dragged her into the front room of his parents’ house and subjected her to a serious sexual assault.

She tried to fight him off and at one point managed to knee him in the chest.

“I ran out and screamed ‘I’m going to tell my mum’ but I didn’t. He told me he was going to tell my mum I had sworn. I was petrified I would get told off. My mother was strict about swearing.”

She told friends what happened, including another of Purchase’s victims who was of a similar age to her and also gave evidence against him. She said she had always felt a bond with this woman because they had ‘both been through the fire together’.

But after the attack she wrestled with strong feelings of suspicious and mistrust. She would see adults playing with children or taking photographs of them and feel suspicious of their intentions.

After the attack she said Purchase never seemed embarrassed or ashamed.

She said: “He’s got this air of arrogance about him.”

He moved to the Rainbow Hill in the city, an area she afterwards tried to avoid.

She said of the attack: “It’s always there. It never goes – it never will go. It’s never going to leave you. You just have to learn to control it.”

Since the attack she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, including flashbacks and blackouts, for which she is now re
ceiving therapy.

Miss Alexander, a mother-of-one, who now has a partner and a successful career in finance, has also had to wrestle with feelings of guilt that she did not speak up sooner.

She said: “If I had taken it forward, would it have happened to them (the other victims)? The chances are it would have. I felt people would not have believed me. I didn’t feel there was anyone I could turn to that was of adequate responsibility to be able to help me. I felt very alone.”

She initially became aware of the case against Purchase when she was contacted by another of his victims through Facebook, someone she had not had any contact with for 22 years.

The woman recommended she contacted DC Julie Williams who was compiling evidence against Purchase.

Miss Alexander, who has a son of 10, faced mixed reactions from those close to her, some telling her to speak out and others not to. She said her family had been incredibly supportive.

She added: “There were people telling me not to go through with it and telling me ‘you don’t want to drag yourself through the courts’. But the guilt set in. I wanted to do this. It wasn’t to clear my guilt but I knew there was somebody out there that needs to be put away and stopped. It was my own decision to go ahead with this.”

But she says DC Julie Williams, who came out to see her, gave her the courage to come forward and testify against Purchase in court without even a curtain or screen to protect her identity.

She said: “There were times when I felt like pulling the plug. If it had been anyone other than her (DC Julie Williams) I would not gone through this court case. She has been phenomenal. Without Julie’s support I would not have done this. She gave me the strength and the confidence. She has been amazing.”
 

The police officer

DC Julie Williams, investigating officer in Darren Purchase caseTHE officer who led the investigation says she was only ‘doing her job’ and it is the victims who are the real heroes.

DC Julie Williams has led the investigation into Purchase since it was launched in August 2011. The case began after a male victim reported he had been abused by Purchase from the age of 12 upwards.

From there she made contact with other people, helping other victims of Purchase to come forward in what she said had been a long and painstaking process.

Through the male victim she was able to establish a network of contacts and build a strong case against Purchase.

She said: “Throughout the investigation the defendant continued to deny the systematic abuse he subjected people to which made it harder for the victims who have got to give evidence in court.

“Giving evidence they have to relive their awful experience because he has denied it. They (the victims) should be very proud of themselves for coming forward and giving evidence. They have shown such strength when they have felt so weak over the years.

“A lot of them have suffered mental health issues because of the abuse.

“I’m so impressed with them and especially the way they conducted themselves throughout this difficult and traumatic time. I hope that, now they have come to the end of the trial, they will be able to start the healing process because there will be more tough times ahead.”

 

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