August 2016

Man guilty of sexually abusing young girl

THE former custodian of a historic Worcestershire country house is facing jail after sexually abusing a young girl there more than 20 years ago.

Steven Yates, now aged 60, was found guilty of three charges of taking indecent photographs and four counts of indecently assaulting a young girl at the back of the ticket office when he worked at Witley Court, in Great Witley between October 1991, and April, 1995.

Yates, of The Old Forge, Tenbury, denied the specimen counts. He said his victim had made them up and he chose not to give evidence on his own behalf.

But a jury at Worcester Crown Court heard he had groomed the girl from the age of 12.

He told her to get undressed and how to pose before taking naked pictures of her on a Polaroid camera which printed them instantly, said Rebecca Wade, prosecuting.

Miss Wade said Yates was 36 when he started work as the custodian of the property for English Heritage.

Despite the 24 year age difference, the girl started to think of him as her boyfriend because she enjoyed the attention he gave her.

There was a cabin or hut where tickets were sold which had a small separate office.

He would close the door and put a board against the window, the jury heard.

On one occasion, he told the girl to lie across the desk and he lay on top of her and other times he would make her straddle his lap while he sat on a chair, Miss Wade said.

He had also taken her to another area of the ruined building near the old conservatory and pulled shutters across to conceal them before kissing her and sexually assaulting her, the jury heard.

When the girl was 15, Yates told her his wife was pregnant. The girl told an adult what had been happening and Yates quit his job and left, Miss Wade said, but no further complaint was made.

The abuse had a profound effect on her life and she had sought counselling. In 2014, she read a newspaper story of his conviction for downloading child porn on his work computer and decided to tell police what had happened, Miss Wade said.

The jury of nine women and two men – one juror had earlier been discharged – also cleared him of one charge of taking indecent photographs.

Judge Robert Juckes, QC, granted Yates bail but told him this was not an indication of the type of sentence he could expect as the offences crossed the custody threshold. A pre-sentence report was ordered and he is due to return to court for sentencing on September 26.

Commenting after the court reached its verdict, an NSPCC spokesman said: “Yates’ devious and calculated behaviour enabled him to win the trust of a 12-year-old girl whom he went on to abuse.

“In a futile attempt to save his own neck, Yates’ insisted his victim was a liar as she bravely recounted her ordeal. Thankfully, the law has shown who the real liar is.

“We hope this woman’s bravery in coming forward, will encourage other victims of historic child abuse to speak out – no matter how much time has passed.”

A spokesman for Witley Court said: “Steven Yates worked as a custodian at Witley Court over 20 years ago, from March 1991 to May 1995 when he resigned.

“We are appalled at what happened and how he betrayed the trust we placed in him.”