32-year prison sentence over care home sexual abuse in West Sussex

|News, Sexual offences

The former manager of a former children's home in West Sussex has been jailed for 32 years after being convicted of a series of non-recent sexual offences.

Hove Crown Court heard that Michael Webber (78) ran the Old Rectory in Singleton in the 1970s and 1980s which was a long term residential care home for almost thirty children between the ages of five and twenty. He had previously been superintendent at a children’s home in London. Over a period of over 20 years, he sexually abused a number of boys in his care.

After entering pleas of not guilty, Webber was convicted following a four-week trial of 26 counts of sexual abuse against six boys. The victims were aged between six and fifteen years old at the time of the offences. Five of them had been resident in the care homes he ran. Webber was found not guilty of three other charges.

Lorna Lee, from the CPS, said: “The victims in this case were particularly vulnerable when they were children, mostly having been placed into residential care by Social Services from a very young age.

“Some of Webber’s victims commented on how happy they initially were when they arrived at the Old Rectory as it appeared an idyllic place to live; sadly that changed as soon as the abuse started.

“The victims in this case, now all grown men, have all shown immense courage in coming forward to give evidence. We know that many of them were substantially affected both by the abuse they suffered at the hands of Webber, a man who had been entrusted with protecting and caring for them, and by having to carry the secret of it for all their adult lives.

“Building the case against John Webber was a painstaking process and we worked closely with the police over many months to ensure he would brought to justice. We would like to thank all the witnesses for their support and wish them the very best for the future.”

Notes to editors

  • Lorna Lee is a lawyer in the CPS South East Rape and Serious Sexual Offences Team
  • Michael Webber [DOB: 13/03/1940] was convicted of a total of 26 charges:
    • 19 counts of indecent assault on boys aged between 7 and 15 years old between 1970 and 1983
    • Three counts of buggery with a boy aged between 10 and 13 years old between 1976 and 1983
    • Two counts of indecency with a child, a boy aged between 10 and 13 years old between 1976 and 1980
    • Two counts of attempted buggery with a boy aged between 10 and 14 between 1976 and 1981
  • He was found not guilty of three charges:
    • Two counts of indecent assault on a male person
    • One count of attempted buggery.

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