Northants amateur dramatics director guilty of abusing young performers
An amateur theatre practitioner from Northamptonshire has been convicted of a string of sexual offences against young performers over a period of five years.
Christopher Lynch (38), from Kettering, used the amateur theatre companies he ran or was involved with to lure teenage girls into vulnerable positions, where he sexually abused them. He invited victims to auditions for what he claimed were productions, films and even a performance at the Edinburgh Festival. On each occasion he persuaded them to ‘audition’ without anyone else present and forced them into sexual activity on the pretext that it was part of the production. He used the lure of being cast in an appealing production to coerce victims into situations where they were vulnerable and isolated. Once he was alone with victims he was ruthless in the tactics he used to make them believe that the abuse was normal and submit to it. Most of his victims were 16 or under.
Lynch committed these offences over a five-year period. Each reported offence appeared to have happened in isolation until Northamptonshire police identified a concerning pattern of behaviour and referred the case to the CPS. Six of his victims agreed to come forward and give evidence and he was charged with 12 sexual offences, including sexual activity with a child and rape. He was prosecuted at Northampton Crown Court and today (29 September) found guilty of 11 offences against five victims following a two-week trial.
Liz Fell of the CPS said: “Christopher Lynch posed as an enthusiastic theatre practitioner, giving young performers the opportunity to join creative projects and productions. The reality is he is a sexual predator who has fortunately been stopped in his tracks by today’s conviction. Lynch preyed on the vulnerability of young girls keen to pursue their passion for performing. He lied about each victim’s account, trying to discredit them. The evidence given by six separate victims showed he was offending continually, callously selecting young people he could manipulate for his own gratification.
“His claim in his defence that he did nothing wrong and the victims somehow colluded together to create a fictitious account was completely implausible. I am very grateful to the victims and other witnesses, whose evidence has allowed the truth to come out. Lynch’s actions had a terrible impact on them, leaving them feeling that they were in some way to blame for what happened. I hope today’s verdict reassures them that Christopher Lynch alone was responsible for this abuse.”
Building the case:
Christopher Lynch was convicted of abusing five young women. Four had been assaulted during what they thought was an audition, where Lynch asked them to portray sexualised themes and used that to abuse them. Another consulted Lynch about a script she was writing. She met with Lynch to discuss the project and he used the meeting to sexually assault her while implying he was ‘acting’.
The prosecution case was that Lynch was demonstrating a pattern of abuse, potentially escalating into more serious offending. The similarity of the offences and the way he manipulated victims into a vulnerable situation was a key aspect of the prosecution case. However, to prove to a jury that such a pattern exists, the CPS must prove each individual offence and then demonstrate that there is a connection. The CPS applied to the court to use the evidence given in the trial by each victim about Lynch’s methods as evidence of his offending towards the other victims. This meant the jury were able to consider his pattern of offending as well as the individual actions in their verdicts.
One of the main challenges of sexual offences is that they take place in private, with no eyewitnesses. Lynch had manipulated his victims so they were always alone when he abused them. The evidence of the victims themselves was crucial in bringing Lynch to justice. However, in this case, the CPS also had supporting evidence from others close to the victims whose account of what they saw before and after the incidents helped strengthen the evidence of the victims. The CPS was also able to use messages between the defendant and the victims to demonstrate how he had groomed and manipulated them into attending the so-called auditions, including a message where he had posed as fictional female member of one of his companies asking what level of sexual activity the victim was willing to do in the course of performing.
Lynch claimed in his police interviews and in his defence that sexual contact did not take place during the auditions. The prosecution’s case was that it was implausible that this many different individuals would choose to fabricate almost identical stories of allegations as serious as sexual abuse.
Lynch persisted in his lies, forcing the victims to give evidence at his trial. The CPS ensured that the victims were supported in giving their evidence, including giving their initial account via video recording and, in some cases, giving evidence from behind screens, so they only had to see the advocate, judge and jury and not the defendant. When these special measures can help victims give evidence, the CPS will apply to the court to request them.
Christopher Lynch was convicted of one count of rape; four counts of sexual activity with a child; three counts of sexual assault two counts of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and one count of arranging or facilitating the commission of a child sex offence. He was acquitted of one count of sexual assault.
Notes to editors
- Liz Fell is a Senior Crown Prosecutor in the rape and serious sexual offences unit at CPS East Midlands
- The CPS is determined to drive up the number of rape cases reaching court across the country. Earlier this year, along with the National Police Chiefs’ Council, we published the Joint National Action Plan which sets out a wide-ranging plan for greater collaboration to improve the response to RASSO cases.
- The CPS is one year in to a five-year strategy to bring about a step change in how it works with all parts of the criminal justice system to reverse the sharp drop in prosecutions.
- We have also recently updated our RASSO legal guidance to reflect rape myths and stereotypes in an age of changing sexual behaviours and the latest insights into the impact of trauma.