A solicitor representing a victim of a paedophile police officer who abused his position to sexually exploit young boys says the trials which saw Allan Richards jailed for 22 years may have only ‘scratched the surface’ in terms of identifying victims.
The former West Midlands Police Sergeant, who was also a Scout master, was jailed last year after being found to have committed 40 offences against boys and young men in crimes dating back to the 1970s.
Seventeen boys had been victims of abuse or exploitation, with his offences including rape and indecent assaults.
Over two trials, Birmingham Crown Court heard how he had sexually abused boys at police stations, at scout camps, in swimming pools, in a park, at his home, and other locations.
‘Highly likely victims have still not come forward’
Cyrilia Davies Knight, civil liberties specialist at Hudgell Solicitors, believes it is ‘highly likely’ there were more victims than those who formed part of the criminal cases against Richards.
It comes as she is currently supporting one of his victims and is preparing a civil legal case against West Midlands Police on his behalf.
“We have serious concerns that there may still be many people out there who were victims of Richards and have still not come forward. That means they are still to receive any form of relevant and probably much needed support, and are still coping alone,” said Ms Davies Knight.
“It was only last year that officers from West Midlands Police contacted our client and told him some other victims had come forward. He has, quite understandably, been badly affected by what happened to him and it has had a huge impact on his life to this date, and will do for the foreseeable future.
“He was contacted as the police had put Richards’ details through the database to see which cases he had worked on. That is when our client’s name came up. This is far from a complete record of the young boys Richards came into contact with though over many years.
“The judge in court described him as someone who would have been a predator for the whole of his adult life, and therefore someone who would likely find a way to get to young victims in many ways, such as through his position as a scout leader.
“It is clear from supporting our client that Richards relied on his position as a police officer to frighten his victims and intimidate them into never speaking out. Our client would not have come forward. He simply didn’t feel he could.
“Many people would also perhaps feel unable to come forward and face the trauma of giving evidence in court as our client, and others, so bravely did.
“It is likely that the trials may have only have scratched the surface in terms of identifying the true number of victims.”
Police officer told abuse victim he’d ‘make his family disappear’
The victim represented by Ms Davies Knight had been introduced to Richards having already been the victim of a rape.
Rather than providing support in his role as a police sergeant, Richards abused him and threatened to ‘make his family disappear’ if he did not do as he said.
The victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said: “The abuse was something I had locked away inside for almost 20 years. I couldn’t talk about it and it was very difficult giving evidence for the trial.
“In many ways, when the police contacted me, I wasn’t shocked to find out there had been more victims, I probably expected it. I just didn’t expect him to be caught as I assumed people would have been the same as me. He was a police officer and I was afraid of him and afraid of saying what he had done.
“I am glad I gave evidence but others may have not felt able to come forward. It’s not easy to deal with and I don’t trust many people now. You lose trust, and again, that can stop you from speaking out.”
Police force investigated as opportunities to prevent abuse may have been missed
Richards was convicted last October of carrying out nine indecent assaults against six boys aged 11 to 15 at camps, swimming baths and other locations between 1982 and 2003.
He had already been found guilty earlier in the year of a further 31 sex offences against other boys, including two rapes, going back to the 1970s.
It was revealed he had avoided prosecution after being questioned when allegations first surfaced in 2000. He also avoided prosecution when allegations resurfaced in 2004.
At that time he had his Scout leader’s warrant removed by the Scout movement following allegations of sexual abuse against a boy at a camp.
He was only ‘removed from public contact’ by West Midlands Police however, and was then told he would not be prosecuted in January 2005.
He remained with the force until he retired in 2011, but a fresh investigation was launched in 2014 when another victim came forward, leading to his convictions.
The force referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) in May 2015 having admitted opportunities may have been missed to prevent Richards abusing other victims after the 2004 allegations came to light.
During a search of his home in Thaxted Road, Tile Cross, Birmingham, detectives found a list of 35 male names Richards had a ‘sexual interest’ in. They also discovered diaries where Richards kept details of ‘touching’ boys as well as describing their underwear.
Ms Davies Knight added: “The trial and subsequent sentence handed out to Richards may have brought some form of closure for some of his victims, but it is certainly believed there may be more victims police have been unable to trace, and therefore more people who will have had no form of closure, and no support at all.”
In total, Richards was found guilty of two rapes, 20 indecent assaults, seven cases of sexual activity with a child, three instances of gross indecency, one count of inciting sexual activity with a child, one charge of a serious sexual assault, five counts of misconduct in public office, and one charge of voyeurism.
For more information on civil liberties and claims relating to police complaints, click here.