May 2018

Brave child abuse survivor speaks of trauma wrought by decades-old offences as her abuser is jailed

A child abuse survivor told a court of the trauma which has haunted her for decades, as her attacker was finally put behind bars.

Disgraced former firefighter Gordon Bedlington made an indelible mark on his victim with abuse which began when she was just six years old.

In an emotional video statement played at Newcastle Crown Court, the woman, now in her 40s, who cannot be named for legal reasons, spoke of the courage it had taken to finally report the decades-old assaults.

Bedlington, 65, of The Folds, Chilton Moor, Houghton le Spring, had pleaded guilty to five counts of indecent assault and one of indecency with a child. On Thursday he was handed a seven-and-a-half-year prison sentence.

His abuse, which was carried out on two young girls in the 1970s and 80s, involved touching the children’s genitals both over and underneath their clothes on different occasions.

On one occasion, he forced the younger victim to touch his penis.

Richard Bennett, prosecuting, said this woman had asked for a statement in which she described the profound impact the offences had on her to be played to the court.

Speaking at times through tears, the victim said: “There aren’t really any words to describe the mental torment a person who has been through sexual abuse goes through, unless you’ve been abused yourself you simply can’t imagine the devastation it causes.”

She said she considered herself a strong person who had bounced back from bereavement, redundancy and other “normal things that happen in life”.

But she added: “Abuse is not a normal part of life and it shouldn’t ever have happened to me, but it did, and it has left my psychological wellbeing in tatters.”

She described the flashbacks and dreams which have continued to torment her. She explained how the post traumatic stress disorder she suffered as a result of the abuse has touched every part of her life, impacting on her relationship with her partner, her work life, and even on the birth of her child.

The woman explained that she rarely feels able to visit her family in the North East because of the memory of the abuse; simple sights like a fire station, or the kind of trousers he used to wear scare her; and her memories have left her at times feeling suicidal.

She said: “I just want to be clear with the court that I wanted to leave this world and my loved ones as a direct result of what that vile person did to me when I was a little girl.”

She spoke of the “shame and disgust” Bedlington’s abuse caused her to feel, and how she was working to overcome that feeling with hours of gruelling therapy.

Despite the difficulty of sharing her story, she said she wanted to speak out so that her abuser, as well as the court, understood the harm he had caused.

She told the court: “I hope my words will haunt him for the rest of his life.”

And she added: “I hope that one day I will feel relief that I have taken this brave step to stop him hurting other children.”

Handing down the sentence, judge Penny Morland said her sentence was constricted by the laws in force at the time of the offences. If committed today, they would have carried a longer maximum sentence.

She told Bedlington: “The impact of your offending has been described more eloquently than I ever could. To abuse a child is to rob that person of their childhood, and to rob them of the life which they might have had.

“You have caused irreparable damage to your victim and to her relationship with her parents.

“She spoke of the shame that victims of sexual abuse sometimes feel: it must be clear that all the shame is yours.”

Bedlington was also made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order and ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register.