July 2011

Gloucester’s William Barber ‘abused kids for 12 years’

A PREDATORY paedophile has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for abusing eight children.

William Barber was a respected parish councillor, school governor and “pillar of the community” in Brockworth, but he was secretly preying on vulnerable children as young as five.

A jury at Gloucester Crown Court unanimously found him guilty of 18 charges of indecently assaulting or committing gross indecency with his eight victims over a 13 year period.

The seven girls and one boy were all aged between five and 12 at the time of the offences.

Jailing Barber yesterday, Judge Jamie Tabor QC said: “During the course of this case you have not shown, as far as I can see, one scintilla of concern for your victims.

“You have only shown concern for yourself.

“These children trusted you, as did their parents, and you betrayed that trust wholly.

“Your actions really took away their childhoods and childhood memories far, far too early in their lives.”

Bravery speaking up after the trial, one of his victims told The Citizen: “I would have liked to see him locked up for the rest of his life.

“I hate to think that he might have the chance to abuse other children in future like he abused us.”

To many, 61-year-old Barber of Southgate Street, Gloucester, was the ultimate public figure – a man who would go out of his way to help others.

Yet lurking beyond the bravado was a sinister character, with sick sexual desires.

Barber was a foster carer in Gloucestershire from 1977 to 1989. None of the victims during the case were children he fostered.

As a parish councillor and member of Brockworth Tenants Association, he had scores of vulnerable families who would come to him for help.

In 1997, while some of the offending was going on, he was chairman of the tenants group.

In the pages of this newspaper, the father-of-four campaigned for more police on the beat in Brockworth.

Yet behind his squeaky clean, Mr Community image, was a paedophile abusing children.

Barber was great at conning people; residents from Brockworth believed he was a good man.

He won friends, and a seat, on the parish council, where he took forward concerns on littering and anti-social behaviour.

The truth about his behaviour shocked the community.

Councillor Mike Collins, a Liberal Democrat who represents Brockworth, said: “It’s hard to believe this kind of thing was going on around us, yet it took years for it all to come out.

“This offending was going on, but it was only when the victims got older and chose to come forward, when he was found out. It’s awful.”

Jim Hunt, chair of the parish council, who first sat on it in 1991, said: “It’s unbelievable really. If he had been on the parish council now, we would not have been happy, it would have been embarrassing.”

In February 2000 it appears his squeaky-clean image started to unravel.

He appeared in Gloucester Magistrates Court charged with indecent assault on a young boy. He denied the claims and when the trial reached Crown Court 10 months later Judge Tom Longbotham threw out all eight charges against him due to flaws in the evidence and Barber walked away free.

Recluse

By this stage he was living alone in a one-bedroom flat in Southgate Street.

Neighbours there described him as a “recluse” – a far cry from the upstanding man who left Brockworth.

He rarely had visitors and made no effort to make friends.

Neighbour Lleanne Smith, 30, remembers hearing a scream coming from his flat from a child and reported the incident to social services. She attended the trial last week.

“I just looked through his eyes and saw a big black hole that led to no-where,” she said.

Another neighbour Jonathan Woodward, 40, said: “He is a recluse, he doesn’t have anything to do with anyone.”

The latest police investigation into Barber started in April 2010, when one of his victims made a complaint.

This led to a detailed investigation, which uncovered his web of deceit and more victims.

Sergeant Nigel Hatten said: “Sadly, he used that image of respectability to aid his offending and, like many predatory paedophiles, relied upon fear and intimidation to ensure his victims were too afraid to come forward.”

The judge also made a sexual offences prevention order stopping Barber associating with children after his release – which could be as soon as 2018.

He was also made to sign the sex offenders register for life.