Former BBC man guilty of string of sex offences

Michael Souter,

Michael Souter, - Credit: copyright: Archant 2013

A former BBC Radio Norfolk presenter has been found guilty of a string of serious sexual offences against a number of boys spanning almost two decades.

Michael Souter, 60, of Low Bungay Road, Loddon, had denied 19 counts of historic child sex abuse relating to seven different boys aged between 11 and 16, which are said to have happened between 1979 and 1999.

But a jury at Norwich Crown Court yesterday found Souter guilty of all counts after a trial lasting more than five weeks.

Souter has also been found guilty of a further seven counts of making and possessing indecent images of young children which were found on a computer after his arrest.

Souter, who was described as “a deviant sexual abuser of young boys, particularly boys in uniform and those wearing shorts” by prosecutor Andrew Shaw, had vowed to clear his name after being charged with the offences.

Souter had insisted that none of these events happened, that the victims had falsely accused him or colluded against him.

He also accused the police of putting indecent images on his computer after he was arrested in 2011 and even at one point during the trial accused both Judge Mark Lucraft and Mr Shaw.

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But the jury of nine men and three women took just a few hours to find the defendant guilty.

For his seven victims it was a momentous day and a day which some thought might never come because Souter, who had previously been arrested in 1993 after one boy made a complaint of abuse, had no further action taken against him then, or in 2002 when two further complaints were made.

It was only in 2010, when police received another complaint from a man who gave details of other victims, that significant progress was made in terms of investigating Souter who was later arrested in 2011 at his home in Loddon.

Mr Shaw said those in authority over the years had “made mistakes” in not proceeding with those matters and that this trial was “an opportunity to make good those mistakes”.

During the trial, Norwich Crown Court had heard that Souter worked in television and radio and was “something of a local celebrity”.

The jury was told the victims were often taken on trips, both in this country and abroad, or given treats such as trips to Norwich City matches or Pleasurewood Hills amusement park, near Lowestoft.

Souter was also involved in the Scout movement and was a mentor in a link-up scheme with Norfolk County Council, which put him in touch with vulnerable youngsters.

Mr Shaw said: “The significance of his work and his involvement with the Scouts and social services is that these three roles brought Mr Souter into regular contact with pliable young boys and very often pliable young boys who were among society’s most vulnerable.”

He added: “We say Mr Souter is a deviant sexual abuser of young boys, particularly boys in uniform and those wearing shorts.”

The court heard one of the alleged victims once tried to stop Souter’s advances after being taught at school that in the Army they laced soldiers’ tea with bromide – a sedative which can suppress sexual feelings.

He stole a bottle from school and hid it under a pillow. But it was discovered by Souter before the youngster could use it.

Mr Shaw said no fewer than seven different adult men had accused Mr Souter of sexually abusing them over a period “spanning getting on for 20 years” and the likelihood of them all deciding to invent “spurious and wicked allegations against an innocent man was, frankly, nil”.

In his closing speech earlier this week Mr Shaw said Souter was a “child abuser of the most serious kind” and described him as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, likening him to characters in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

He said: “He had all the allure of a Toymaker and all the menace of a Child Catcher.”