John Allen trial: Children's home boss found guilty of 26 counts of sexual abuse

First person convicted under Operation Pallial investigation into historic Welsh abuse

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The Independent Online

A former millionaire who abused vulnerable children in his network of community care homes was found guiltytoday of 26 counts of child sex offences, becoming the first person prosecuted following an ongoing investigation into historical child abuse in north Wales.

John Allen, 73, created a “culture of fear” over so many years that his victims became “hardened to the abuse”, a court heard.

Allen, who also managed pop bands, had denied 40 charges of sexual abuse against 19 boys and a girl – aged between seven and 15 at the time – while he ran Bryn Alyn Community children’s homes in and around Wrexham between 1968 and 1991.

After almost a week of deliberations the jury at Mold Crown Court returned this afternoon to find the former hotelier guilty on 26 counts and not guilty on two counts. His trial is the first resulting from Operation Pallial, the National Crime Agency-led investigation into recent allegations of abuse in the care system in North Wales.

Allen, from Needham Market near Ipswich, was convicted of 21 charges of indecent assault, one charge of indecency with a child, two counts of an illegal sex act and two charges of attempting the illegal act. He was cleared of two charges of an illegal sex act.

While running a hotel that catered for children from broken homes, Allen and his future wife Norma first opened a Bryn Alyn care home for children in 1968 when he was 27.

He told the court: “We felt there was room to deal with delinquent youngsters in a different way, a more open approach where youngsters would be allowed to develop at their own pace.”

The young entrepreneur built up a portfolio of 11 residential care homes, which catered for more than 100 children at any one time. Most of the alleged abuse is said to have taken place at three - Bryn Alyn, Pentre Saeson and Bryn Terion.

Opening the case, prosecutor Eleanor Laws QC said instead of the “open approach” Allen claimed to have introduced for vulnerable children, he instead created “a sexualised atmosphere alongside a culture of fear” thanks to his propensity for violence usually fuelled by alcohol.

Miss Laws said Allen employed staff to look after the children but involved himself in night duties and was “a regular and formidable presence” at several of the homes. She said boys at the homes described Allen as being abusive and at times violent and would often be under the influence of drink.

She told the court most of the victims, offered expensive gifts to lure them into a false sense of security, felt they had no choice but to put up with Allen’s attentions as they became “hardened to the abuse”.

The jury had been told that Allen was convicted in 1996 of indecently assaulting six boys, aged between 12 and 16, at his care homes in the 1970s. Allen said he had no sexual interest in young boys and branded his victims as fantasists who were seeking compensation in the wake of the publicity following his previous convictions. He told the court he had been a victim of a miscarriage of justice.

By the time of his arrest by Operation Pallial detectives, he was living in a rented £120,000 one-bedroom property, the trappings of his once successful business empire nowhere to be seen.

The judge Mr Justice Openshaw adjourned the case until Thursday when the jury will return to continue their deliberations on 12 remaining charges.