Three years of investigation brought the trial to Exeter Crown Court in February 2017. Whilst testimonies were offered up, the jury requested recess in order to process all the pain and horror they had witnessed. On verdict day, as we sat and waited, the victims taking comfort from each other and their supporters, I shared that I have a similar past; sparking the connection only abuse survivors can feel. On the return of the jury, not one of us was breathing. The sharp expulsion of any remaining air was audible when the verdict of the first charge was announced.
"Guilty", said the spokesman.
Followed by guilty on the next fifteen counts. Sat just a few feet away, a bullet-proof opaque glass partition separating us from this pathetic example of a human being, we held each other and wept. The Judge asked if the victims were willing to give an Impact Statement. The prosecutor read these out and my brave, brave friend, stood up in front of all, including the convicted, to read out her own. My friend, you are a warrior and I am so proud to know you.
When it came to sentencing, the judge was clearly saddened in his restrictions. Had the offences occurred in present time, he'd have been able to give life on one of the counts. If the case had needed to rely solely on his offences when he was under-seventeen, he'd have shockingly received even less than he was about to give; the law at that time stating that young people could not be sent to prison. However, Owen was over that age for one of the charges, thus meaning he could be sentenced as an adult and for that, he got 16 years.
Standard sentencing means they serve half, so in reality a sixteen year sentence means only eight years for his crimes. Totalling up the years sentenced on each charge, Owen received 62 years - to run concurrently. Putting a licence on him for parole, meaning he won't automatically qualify for release after half- time and must go before a Board, will keep him away for 10 years as it's not customary to release them at first sit.
It is a very personal decision to bring such matters to the eyes of the law and the public, it takes so much out of us as we endure the experiences and pain of flashbacks; the impact that abuse has had on our lives, there for all to see.
As young men and women, we might have been on the edge of society due to being thought of as 'difficult'. Due to feelings of worthlessness and being out-of-sync with the world, we could well have sojourned down roads of promiscuity, in the need to be 'loved', spiralling into self-destructive patterns, picking abusers as our 'lovers'.
Alcohol and drug abuse are common, Mental and physical health issues are typical. Many abuse survivors resort to cutting themselves - the flow of red blood somehow validating the torture we have experienced, and, in its release into the outer world, pain too hard to bear is discharged for the briefest of moments. Extreme ongoing stress brings about painful physical conditions as our bodies become exhausted and worn out. Finding the strength to carry on is an elusive battle that can be fought over and over again; and sadly, is one that many do not win.
Having our traumas, and their effects, aired in public, is not an easy decision to make. The kind treatment, combined with the respect and admiration of all those involved in the case of Owen Hill, along with the validation and subsequent sentencing has, I hope, offered comfort that will assist his victims in the healing process. I hope their strength might even give other victims an opportunity to use their own voices and speak out.
Our original experiences were harrowing and damaging. Sitting through this case has been equally harrowing, but by all that I hold dear, I have never been more proud of my 'kin' then I am today. I myself can't prosecute my own abusers, they are all dead now, and so this has, in some small measure, allowed me the deep satisfaction that for at least ten years, society is protected from one bit of scum. My gratitude goes to those brave and courageous men and women who put him away.
I'm going to finish with the words of DC Brown;
"I would like to thank the victims in this case for the bravery and patience that they have shown throughout the course of this investigation, which has been ongoing over the last three years and involved the resurrection of two cold-case files from the 1990s. I would also like to thank them for their strength and courage in court during this difficult time.
An NSPCC spokesperson for South West England said:
"These disturbing offences will have caused the victims and their families an enormous amount of distress and we hope they are receiving the right support to overcome these traumatic experiences.
You can read the news report here.
Any adult concerned about the welfare of a child or young person can call the NSPCC helpline for free, 24/7, on 0808 800 5000. Children can call Childline on 0800 1111.
Images below contain links to various organisations that might be of help.
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