August 2016

Former borstal officer jailed for abusing four young girls


A coastguard has been jailed for 11 years for the abuse of four girls who are still haunted by the trauma of his sexual assaults.

Former prison officer Peter Vowden molested the girls at different times over a 21-year period when they were aged from seven to 15.

At the time he was living in North Devon or at Weymouth, where he worked at the nearby Borstal at Portland, now a Young Offenders Institution.

He moved back to Barnstaple and had worked at a builder’s merchant and for the local council and volunteered as an auxiliary coastguard until his past crimes caught up with him.

Vowden, 60, of Poltimore Lane, Barnstaple, admitted a total of 18 offences of indecent assault or indecency against four victims between 1973 and 1994.

He was jailed for a total of 11 years with a one year extended licence by Recorder Paul Dunkels, QC, at Exeter Crown Court. He was also put on the sex offenders’ register for life and made subject of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order which bans any contact with children after his release.

The judge told him: “You were aged 18 to 39 at the time of these offences and the children were seven to 15. I have read their victim impact statements and take into account the profound and long standing damage that your abuse has left to them.

“It has haunted them for decades. You were a persistent offender with a course of conduct involving a number of victims.

“I have read a letter in which you claim to show remorse at this stage. That is remorse which you clearly did not show at any time during the 20 or so years when your crimes remained undetected and unpunished.”

Sean Brunton, for the prosecution, said the offences all happened when Vowden had access to the victims at different times over the years, including while he was working as a prison officer at Portland.

He ensured their silence by threatening to hurt them or their families and by telling them nobody would believe them if they complained.

He even put a knife to the throat of one of the victims when he feared she would tell her mother about his abuse. He told her: “If you tell anyone, I’m going to stab you.”

Brunton said: “Three of the victims have made personal statements. The impact on them has been devastating, and that is not surprising.”

Richard Crabb, for the defence, said: “He describes himself as being in a complete whirl at the time and although he knew what he was doing was wrong, he cannot explain his motivation.

“He says he knows he was not born that way. He has lived an honest and industrious life since 1994 and says there is no chance whatsoever of him reoffending.

“He worked for a builder’s merchants for 20 years and more recently has been employed by the local authority. He has also done voluntary work as an auxiliary coastguard.

“He tells me he now has no interest in sex and no interest in children. He is remorseful apologetic and ashamed.”