21 people convicted in West Midlands child sex abuse investigation
A total of 21 people have been found guilty of their roles in one of the biggest child sex abuse cases to be investigated by West Midlands Police.
Seven victims, aged up to 12 years old, were abused over almost a decade in the Walsall and Wolverhampton areas.
The offences first came to light after one of the victims was admitted to hospital with a suspicious injury, with doctors making a safeguarding referral, West Midlands Police said.
After several trials, the last of which concluded this month, 13 people have now been jailed with four others due to be sentenced.
In the first trial, which concluded in May 2022, Mark Smith (pictured, left), 34, was sentenced to 19 years in prison with an extended licence period of six years after being convicted of four child sex abuse offences, while James Evans (pictured, right), 38, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 18 years after being found guilty of 20 sexual abuse offences.
The second trial concluded in February 2023 in which nine people were convicted including Tracey Baker, 41, who was jailed for 16 years for five child sexual abuse related offences, and David Baker, 41, who was sentenced to 21 years in jail including one year on licence for seven child sex abuse offences.
Jail terms imposed ranged from 28 months to life, while four of those convicted received non-custodial terms.
Detective Chief Superintendent Paul Drover, of West Midlands Police, said a large team of officers investigated over more than half a decade, uncovering what he called “systematic abuse that has to be some of the most shocking I have seen in my career”.
“Our investigation turned into one of the biggest investigations in the West Midlands into child sexual abuse,” he added.
Mr Drover said: “Seventy interviews were conducted and we heard high numbers of disclosures made by the children involved.
“We had specialist support from the National Crime Agency detectives, specialists in disclosure and exhibits, plus all the support from colleagues at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), local authority social care, children’s mental health services and health services.”
He added that a report into what had taken place and understanding how it happened as well as any “lessons to be learned” was being co-ordinated by Walsall Safeguarding Children’s Board, and was expected to be published in due course.
“They are looking at what occurred, and over how long,” Mr Drover said.
The trial process was delayed by the impact of the Covid pandemic, added the senior police officer.
Mr Drover praised the victims, some of whom are now adults, for coming forward, allowing the perpetrators to be brought to justice, saying they had suffered “shocking and abhorrent” abuse.
“They have been through a significant amount of trauma,” he said, adding “it has had a significant and ongoing impact on their physical and mental wellbeing”.
“To get the confidence to come forward and talk to care professionals, to police is huge,” he said.
“I am genuinely thankful, and also to the juries involved in this.
“The safeguarding of children is at the forefront of police, of health (workers), of school teachers, this to me is a perfect example of how we work together to bring a significant case to the stage where… (offenders) will be found guilty of significant offences and receive up to life terms in prison.
“This is an ask from me, for those subject to sexual harm to have the confidence to come forward, talk to teachers, nurses and doctors, police officers, tell us what is going on.
“We spent several years on this investigation, and we continued to run this until we got to the conclusion we have seen.
“So I am hoping this gives some confidence (to those victims) out there to come forward to talk to professionals.”
Joanne Jakymec, CPS chief crown prosecutor, said: “The offenders in this case perpetrated the most appalling catalogue of sexual abuse of the utmost gravity, causing the victims physical harm and extreme psychological harm.
“With the exception of one of the offenders who admitted what they had done, none of the rest have shown the slightest remorse.”
She praised the “bravery” of victims and witnesses, adding “without their support it would not have been possible for the prosecution team to convict this large network of child abusers”.
Those convicted in the trials were:
- James Evans, 38, who was jailed for life with a minimum term of 18 years and given an indefinite sexual harm prevention order (SHPO) after being found guilty of 20 child sex offences
- Kirsty Webb, 36, who was jailed for 10 years, given an indefinite restraining order in respect of the victims and a 30-year SHPO after being found guilty of five child sex offences
- Mark Smith, 34, jailed for 19 years with an extended licence period of six years, making a total of 25 years, for four child sex offences. He was also handed an SHPO for 30 years and an indefinite restraining order in respect of the victims
- Pamela Howells, 58, was jailed for seven years for three child sex offences and was also handed an SHPO for 15 years and an indefinite restraining order
- Lee Webb, 40, was found guilty of three child sex offences and was jailed for six years with a 30-year SHPO and an indefinite restraining order
- Ann Marie Clare, 43, was jailed for eight years for four child sex offences, with an extended licence period of three years for 11 years in total. She was also handed an SHPO for 30 years and an indefinite restraining order
- Dean Webb, 35, was found not fit to plea but a jury decided he had committed the acts alleged. He was given a two-year supervision order and a 40-year SHPO
- Stephen Webb, 65, was also found not fit to plea but the jury decided he had committed the acts alleged. He was given an absolute discharge for health reasons
- Natasha Webb, 37, is due to be sentenced at a later date. She gave evidence for the Crown at all three trials
- Tracey Baker, 41, was found guilty of five child sex abuse offences and sentenced to 16 years in prison and given an SHPO and a restraining order, both until further notice
- David Baker, 41, was found guilty of seven child sex offences and sentenced to 21 years imprisonment including one year on licence, as well as an indefinite SHPO and an indefinite restraining order
- Luke Baker, 22, was jailed for two years and four months for two child sex offences and was also handed a restraining order until further notice and a 15-year SHPO
- David Evans, 72, was jailed for three-and-a-half years for two offences and given indefinite restraining and SHPO orders
- Jane Evans, 71, was found unfit to plea but a jury decided she committed the acts alleged. She was sentenced to a supervision order and a SHPO
- Philip Wellington, 50, was found guilty of three child sex offences and hailed for nine years and given an SHPO and a restraining order, both to last until further order
- Natalie Wellington, 44, was convicted of four child sex offences and jailed for 17 years including an extra year on extended licence, alongside an indefinite restraining order and indefinite SHPO
- Jason Evans, 25, was found guilty of three offences and sentenced to two years and six months, a restraining order until further notice and a 15-year SHPO
- Ryan Evans, 23, was found guilty of one child sex offence and sentenced to a three-year community order, a restraining order and a 15-year SHPO
- Matthew Evans, 32, will be sentenced in May after being found guilty of two child sex offences
- John Griffiths, 66, was found guilty of two child sex offences and will be sentenced in May
- Violet Griffiths, 66, will be sentenced in May after being convicted of two child sex offences.
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