Sussex children’s home owner jailed for ‘appalling’ historic abuse of children

John Webber was jailed for 32 years
John Webber was jailed for 32 years

A children’s home owner who carried out a campaign of abuse against young boys in his care has been jailed for 32 years.

John Webber was convicted last week of a staggering 26 historic sex offences, which took place while he owned the Old Rectory Children’s Home in Church Road, Singleton, which has long since closed.

He appeared at Hove Crown Court this afternoon

He appeared at Hove Crown Court this afternoon

Webber, 78, of Clifton Hill in Brighton still does not admit his guilt and showed no remorse when he appeared at Hove Crown Court for sentencing this afternoon.

After a lengthy trial, Webber was found guilty of: 19 charges of indecent assault on a male person, two charges of indecency with a child, three of serious sexual assault and two of attempted serious sexual assault.

Prosecutor Jennifer Knight said his offences involved an ‘overwhelmingly grave abuse of trust’.

Brave impact statements from some of Webber’s many victims were read out in court, explaining how his crimes still affect them to this day.

Mr Webber abused the position of trust he held and took away my childhood

One of Webber’s victims, speaking through a statement

One survivor – who cannot be named for legal reasons – said he wonders what his life could have been like had it not been for Webber.

He said: “Due to the sexual abuse my life has been very different to most others I grew up with.

“I am emotionally and psychologically damaged. I have bipolar and PTSD, for which I have very strong medication.

“I suffer with flashbacks. I never feel safe.

“Mr Webber abused the position of trust he held and took away my childhood.

“Who knows what I could have been or the job I could have had if this hadn’t happened.”

Another survivor said: “Whilst I tried to shut it out, as anyone can understand, this traumatised me in more ways than I know.

“It troubles me to think of another person having this burden, or to have this experience inflicted on them as a young child.”

Another survivor reflected on being excited when he first moved to the Old Rectory Children’s Home, but how this sense of hope was soon dashed.

He said: “All along I thought I was the only one this was happening to and that nobody would have listened to one person.

“What happened to me in that home has always been in my head [ever since].”

A fourth survivor said the trial has been ‘the most difficult and terrifying’ time of their life.

He said: “I feel the impact of the investigation leading up to the court case.

“The sexual abuse that I suffered has stayed with me all my life and it always will but the difference is up until now my voice had not been heard.

“I was given the chance to be heard and my life will be better for it.”

Defence barrister Philippa McAtasney said Webber was ‘totally shocked’ at the verdicts last week and still does not accept guilty.

She said: “Notwithstanding all the negative things about this defendant, in our submission Mr Webber has positive aspects and has done many honourable things in his life

“He has had this investigation hanging over him for over two years.

“It has taken its toll on him mentally and physically.”

Judge David Rennie said that Webber knew the children in his care were among the most vulnerable in society.

He said: “You turned out not to be the kind and caring father figure. That was the public persona.

“In private you revealed the other side of your nature. The darker side.”

Judge Rennie said Webber led a double life with ‘consummate ease’: “The father figure and the paedophile abuser.”

He spoke of the harm caused to Webber’s victims, who still are affected by his crimes today.

He said: “They had no idea that their trust was to be betrayed in the most appalling ways time and time again.

“You have caused incalculable harm.”

The judge told Webber that his crimes involved a ‘significant degree of planning’, grooming behaviour and a ‘massive abuse of trust’.

Webber was jailed for a total of 32 years.