Retired choirmaster jailed for 12 years for sexual abuse of four boys in Essex

A retired school choirmaster who sexually abused boys in the 1970s has been jailed for 12 years.

Kenneth Francis, 72, denied 17 offences but a jury found him guilty of all counts after a trial at Chelmsford Crown Court.

The court heard that he assaulted four boys, all under the age of 16, who were pupils at a school in the Chelmsford area.

Jailing him on Tuesday, Judge David Turner QC said: “Behind the facade of competency, respectability and uprightness you hid a dark paedophile inclination which was to blight the life of those boys and leave a profound legacy of psychological damage.”

The attacks happened at the school and at Francis’s then home in Borehamwood between 1972 and 1979, with Francis giving alcohol to some of his victims.

His offending came to light in 2017 when one of his victims reported that Francis had sexually assaulted him.

In a victim impact statement read to the court, one man said he “resented” being at the school.

Another said he felt he was “betraying” his parents by not telling them what had happened and “only managed to tell them a few years prior to their deaths”.

Jacqueline Carey, mitigating, said Francis touched boys’ genitals and told one of them “This is our secret”.

She said Francis later moved to Jersey and for “30 years or the best part thereof he was a highly regarded man”, adding that there was an “absence of offending” for this period.

She said he lived with his husband in Japan but that there was “great uncertainty about whether he will be able to return” following his conviction.

He has no living relatives, she added.

Francis, of Akasaka in Tokyo, was convicted of 15 counts of indecent assault and two counts of committing an act of gross indecency.

He was jailed for 12 years and will serve half in custody and the rest on licence.

He must also sign the sex offenders register for life and was made subject of a 12-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order, banning him from contact with any boy under 16.

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