The final four people involved in a “depraved” 21-person child sex abuse ring have been jailed for a combined total of 59 years.
Seven victims aged under 13 were abused over almost a decade in the Walsall and Wolverhampton areas in what a judge said was a “prolonged and sustained” campaign that left children “terribly psychologically damaged”.
After several criminal trials, the final four people involved in what the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said was the largest child sexual abuse investigation in the West Midlands have been imprisoned.
Matthew Evans, 32, and John Griffiths, 66, were both jailed for 17 and a half years at Wolverhampton Crown Court on Friday, while Violet Griffiths, 66, was handed 15 years. Natasha Webb, 37, who gave evidence for the prosecution in three criminal trials, was jailed for nine years.
Only Webb pleaded guilty to multiple child sex offences. The other three were convicted by a jury.
Two separate sentencing hearings on Friday, one for Webb and the other for the remaining defendants, heard that the victims had been left traumatised by the abuse.
Judge Simon Ward said those who had been convicted “cared nothing for the general rules of society or the laws that make it a crime to have sex with children”.
He said: “You used children as sexual objects for your own pleasure. The result of what you did has left the victims traumatised and seriously harmed emotionally.
“They came to believe sex with adults was normal.”
Referring to one of the victims, who cannot be named for legal reasons, Judge Ward said it would take “many years” for them to live a normal life because of the “depraved” abuse.
He added that the same victim had suffered psychotic episodes, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and had tried to take their own life. Other victims had also shown signs of PTSD, the court heard.
Sentencing Evans, Judge Ward acknowledged the defendant was “significantly younger” when he carried out the abuse, although still an adult, and that he had not reoffended and was now married.
But he said Evans’ crimes were “terrible”, adding: “According to you, you are innocent, but the jury said otherwise. It is clear to me you do have a sexual interest in children.”
As well as the jail term, with a 12-month extended licence period after that, Evans was also subject to a sexual harm prevention order (SHPO) for 30 years and an indefinite restraining order, and must serve two-thirds of his sentence in jail before he can be considered for release.
Addressing Violet and John Griffiths, Judge Ward acknowledged that neither had any previous convictions, that character references spoke highly of them, and the offences happened more than 10 years ago.
But he said he believed the pair had a sexual interest in children although they both denied it, and jailed Violet Griffiths, with a SHPO for 20 years and an indefinite restraining order.
John Griffiths was also subject to a 12-month extended licence, a 20-year SHPO and an indefinite restraining order. He must serve two-thirds of his sentence behind bars before the Parole Board will decide if he can be released.
In an earlier hearing on Friday, Webb was jailed for a total of nine years, six of which will be spent in prison, with three on licence. She was also given an indefinite restraining order and an indefinite SHPO.
That hearing heard that Webb, who has a learning disability and an IQ of 59, was “easily manipulated and influenced by those who are more able”.
Joanne Jakymec, chief crown prosecutor for the CPS, praised the bravery of the victims and witnesses in coming forward and giving evidence throughout the trials.
She said: “The 21 offenders convicted in Operation Satchel perpetrated the most abhorrent catalogue of systematic sexual abuse on seven children. The scale, depravity and deeply disturbing nature of which is unlike anything I have seen during my time working for the CPS and has shocked everyone who has been involved in bringing them to justice.
“The cruel abuse which they inflicted on the victims for years has caused them physical and extreme psychological harm, leaving them traumatised.
“I would like to thank and commend all of the victims and the witnesses for their bravery in coming forward and giving evidence – it is their courage which enabled us to bring this case to court and see justice served.
“This has been a complex and challenging case which, due to the sheer number of defendants involved, required us to prepare for and present evidence in three separate trials which took place over a period of 18 months to successfully secure this outcome.
“With the exception of one defendant, who admitted what they had done, none of the rest have shown the slightest remorse.
“I would also like to thank the West Midlands Police investigation team who worked with the CPS over five years, painstakingly reviewing a huge amount of evidence to ensure that this large network of child sexual abusers was prosecuted and convicted.
“All children have the right to feel safe and protected. We hope the outcome of this case will encourage anyone who may be in a similar position to come forward to report these incidents to the police, knowing we will do all we can to prosecute where there is sufficient evidence to do so and offer support for victims.”
The offences first came to light after one of the victims was admitted to hospital with a suspicious injury, with doctors making a safeguarding referral, West Midlands Police said.
The others who were convicted in the first two trials are:
– James Evans, 38, was jailed for life with a minimum of 18 years and given an indefinite SHPO for 20 child sex offences.
– Kirsty Webb, 36, was jailed for 10 years, given an indefinite restraining order and a 30-year SHPO for five child sex offences.
– Mark Smith, 34, was jailed for 19 years with an extended licence period of six years, making a total of 25 years, for four child sex offences. He was also handed an SHPO for 30 years and an indefinite restraining order.
– Pamela Howells, 58, was jailed for seven years for three child sex offences and was handed an SHPO for 15 years and an indefinite restraining order.
– Lee Webb, 40, was found guilty of three child sex offences and was jailed for six years with a 30-year SHPO and an indefinite restraining order.
– Ann Marie Clare, 43, was jailed for eight years for four child sex offences, with an extended licence period of three years for 11 years in total. She was also handed an SHPO for 30 years and an indefinite restraining order.
– Dean Webb, 35, was found not fit to plead but a jury decided he had committed the acts alleged. He was given a two-year supervision order and a 40-year SHPO.
– Stephen Webb, 65, was also found not fit to plead but the jury decided he had committed the acts alleged. He was given an absolute discharge for health reasons.
– Tracey Baker, 41, was found guilty of five child sex abuse offences and sentenced to 16 years in prison and given an SHPO and a restraining order, both until further notice.
– David Baker, 41, was found guilty of seven child sex offences and sentenced to 21 years imprisonment including a year on licence, as well as an indefinite SHPO and an indefinite restraining order.
– Luke Baker, 22, was jailed for two years and four months for two child sex offences and was handed a restraining order until further notice and a 15-year SHPO.
– David Evans, 72, was jailed for three and a half years for two offences and given indefinite restraining and SHPO orders.
– Jane Evans, 71, was found unfit to plead but a jury decided she committed the acts alleged. She was sentenced to a supervision order and an SHPO.
– Philip Wellington, 50, was found guilty of three child sex offences and hailed for nine years and given an SHPO and a restraining order, both to last until further order.
– Natalie Wellington, 44, was convicted of four child sex offences and jailed for 17 years including an extra year on extended licence, alongside an indefinite restraining order and indefinite SHPO.
– Jason Evans, 25, was found guilty of three offences and sentenced to two years and six months, a restraining order until further notice and a 15-year SHPO.
– Ryan Evans, 23, was found guilty of one child sex offence and sentenced to a three-year community order, a restraining order and a 15-year SHPO.