North Somercotes man jailed for ‘rape and systematic sexual abuse’ of children

JAILED: Maurice Berry.
JAILED: Maurice Berry.

A North Somercotes man has been jailed for the rape and systematic sexual abuse of children at a care home in North Yorkshire in the 1970s.

Maurice Berry, 64, of Warren Side, was jailed for 13 years at York Crown Court on Tuesday (July 2) following a week-long trial in which the jury heard evidence from victims who were “preyed on” at May Lodge Children’s Home in Scarborough.

Berry, who was in his early 20s at the time, raped one of the girls - a teenager who cannot be named - following a “grooming campaign” in which he showered her with compliments and pretended to be her boyfriend.

He also sexually abused two younger girls after sneaking into their room at night or luring them to his own sleeping quarters at the sprawling Victorian care home.

The jury heard there was a culture of “rigid discipline” at the home where Berry - by his own admission a strict martinet - would prowl the corridors “like the Gestapo” and on one occasion allegedly ordered one girl to sleep on the floor of the laundry room.

He was arrested at his home in Lincolnshire after one or more of the victims, now middle-aged, finally came forward to police in 2017.

Berry was charged with 18 offences including 13 counts of indecent assault, three counts of indecency with a child and two counts of rape over a period of about a year in the 1970s. He denied all allegations.

Prosecutor Dan Cordey said one of his victims was just seven or eight years’ old when Berry - whose role at the home was deputy officer-in-charge - started coming into her room at night “under the pretence of reading a bedside story”, then sexually abuse her.

Mr Cordey said the two instances where Berry had full sex with the older, teenage girl were rapes because “it wasn’t proper or genuine consent (on her part)”.

“The defendant would tell her she was his girlfriend and when she said she didn’t want to have sex with him, he would take the mick out of her and laugh at her,” added the prosecutor.

One of the victims described Berry - who has latterly been working as a chartered surveyor - as “pretty snidey” and said he would come into her room “every opportunity he got”.

“He used to walk around like the Gestapo,” she added.

Berry, now a married father-of-two, had also worked at a school for handicapped children, a Dr Barnardo’s school in Scotland and Scawby Grove Children’s Home in North Lincolnshire before moving to May Lodge as a live-in care worker in the 1970s.

After leaving May Lodge, a Methodist institution, he never worked with children again.

Berry, described as “quite arrogant” by former colleagues, moved back to Lincolnshire to work as a bus driver and then as a housing-liaison officer with Grimsby Borough Council. He then found work as a chartered surveyor providing property and valuation advice to public-sector organisations.

One of Berry’s victims, now a mother, said her life had been “turned upside down”.

Another victim, who ended up having a nervous breakdown, said that while abusing her, Berry would tell her that “thousands of dads” did that sort of thing.

“All my life I felt dirty, like (it was) a stain on me,” she added.

The third victim, also a married mother, said: “I remember how petrified I would be when I went to bed at night.”

The jury found Berry guilty of all but one of the 18 counts, including the rapes of the teenage girl.

Defence barrister Edmund Gritt told judge Sean Morris that Berry was no longer a danger to youngsters and hadn’t worked with children since he was 23 years’ old.

Mr Morris told Berry: “You were preying firstly on two little girls. They were all alone in the world… in a big, rambling Victorian children’s home. And you were wandering around, with your keys, taking your pleasure from these little girls in their beds at night. It was wicked.”

He said Berry had “conditioned and manipulated” the rape victim “to such an extent that it was submission”.

The judge said although Berry had “moved on” in his life and had not offended since, he had “left damaged lives behind”.

Berry, wearing a grey suit, showed no emotion as the judge jailed him for 13 years.

He will serve half of the sentence behind bars before becoming eligible for parole. He was also placed on the sex-offenders’ register for life.