November 2017

Man who abused three girls in Plymouth in the 70s given suspended sentence

A man has avoided jail for sexually abusing three young girls – one during a game of hide-and-seek.

John Chappell, aged 60, faced justice more than 40 years after his vile crimes when his victims came forward.

He got the girls alone and indecently touched them in the early 70s in Plymouth, the city’s crown court heard.

The defendant, aged 16 or 17 at the time, also asked his victims to perform indecent acts upon him.

Chappell was convicted of similar offences later in that decade – but was incredibly only handed a conditional discharge and a fine.

Judge Ian Lawrie said: “These offences were against vulnerable children. They were vulnerable because of their age and lack of experience of life.”

He added that if the offences had been committed after 2003, when the law changed, they would have attracted long prison sentences.

Handing him a suspended prison sentence, Judge Lawrie said that Chappell had been out of trouble for 40 years.

He told the defendant: “You suffer from curvature of the spine which would cause you considerable discomfort in prison.

“The sentence is designed to punish you and is not an exercise in revenge much as that might be the wish of those who suffered at your hands.”

Chappell, of Tyler Close, Hanham in Bristol, pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting two girls aged under 14 in 1974.

He also admitted inciting one of those girls to perform an indecent act.

Chappell finally pleaded guilty to a similar offence in relation to the third girl.

Emily Pitts, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said he abused the first victim several times. She added Chappell also asked the girl to touch him indecently.

She added: “She told a couple of people over the years before it all came out at a funeral.”

Miss Pitts said Chappell abused the second girl on a single occasion.

The barrister said the defendant asked the third girl to perform an indecent act upon him during a game of hide-and-seek.

Miss Pitts said Chappell was convicted in 1975 of a “remarkably similar incident” when he asked another girl to perform a sex act upon him. He was given a three-year conditional discharge.

The defendant was convicted of gross indecency with a child in 1977 and was fined a total of £300.

Judge Lawrie said that he found the sentences “remarkable”.