A 34 year old woman has been found guilty of being at the centre of a paedophile ring which abused children for more than a decade in Norfolk and London. The court heard how she and three associates, also convicted, became masters at appearing to be normal and decent people to avoid detection.
Sexual abuse by women has been dubbed “society’s last taboo.” In 2009, ChildLine reported that calls reporting abuse by women had risen by 132 percent in one year, to make up nearly a quarter of all reported cases. The majority of those naming female assailants accused their own mother of the abuse.
Zoe Hilton, policy advisor for child protection at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), said at the time: “Professionals in all areas of the system tend to be disbelieving of cases of female sexual abuse.”
She called for “far more training and education and greater reporting of female sexual abuse when such cases do come to light,” but added that it would be difficult to see how progress could be made considering the current of denial that runs through government departments tasked with preventing abuse.
In this case Marie Black, from Norwich, denied 26 offences including rape, conspiracy to rape, and inciting a child to engage in sexual activity. But after a three month trial, the jury at Norwich Crown Court found her guilty of all but three counts, the Telegraph has reported.
Judge Nicolas Coleman remanded Black in custody until sentencing, due to take place on September 28, saying “these are very serious matters”. Also remanded were Michael Rogers, 53, from Romford, Essex, who was found guilty of 14 counts including cruelty, rape and inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, and Jason Adams, 43, from Norwich, who was found guilty of 13 similar counts.
Carol Stadler, 59, from Norwich, was found guilty of assault causing actual bodily harm, but she cleared of nine other charges which included serious sexual assaults. She was released on bail.
A further six defendants – Anthony Stadler, 63, Nicola Collins, 36, Andrew Collins, 52, Judith Fuller, 31, Denise Barnes, 43, and Kathleen Adams, 85, all from Norwich – were cleared of all counts.
Black sobbed uncontrollably in the dock as the verdicts were delivered. She was heard to say “I’ve been stitched up.”
The prosecutor in the trail, Angela Rafferty QC, said that Black had played an instrumental role in using the children as sexual play things. She told the court that the abuse included forcing the children to have sex with each other, as well as with the adults.
In interviews, the victims told how they were abused in front of witnesses, including the other victims, and adults. They said that the abuse would sometimes include toys such as Barbie dolls.
“There would be parties and they would do some games where the boys were in one room with the men and the girls were in another with the women,” one of the male victims said. “The adults would have a card game and the winner would get to choose a boy to start touching their private parts and then hurt them afterwards.”
Mrs Rafferty said: “Many of the defendants have become good at appearing normal and respectable. This is what you would have to do in order to be child abusers to the extent alleged here.”
However, all of the defendants have denied abusing the children, simply saying that it never happened. During the trial it emerged that the Police had been forced to investigate misconduct by Norfolk County Council social workers involved in the case after prosecutors raised concerns over changes made by the social workers to statements taken from the children. The investigation delayed the trial for a year.
Sarah Elliott QC, representing Black, told the court that at the time the county’s children’s services department had recently failed an Ofsted inspection, being ranked “inadequate” in all areas.