Jail for final four of ‘depraved’ 21-person child sex abuse ring in Walsall and Wolverhampton

The final four defendants in the child sex abuse case have been sentenced
The final four defendants in the gang have been jailed Credit: West Midlands Police

Warning: some readers may find details in this report upsetting

The final four people involved in a “depraved” 21-person child sex abuse ring, have been jailed for a combined total of 59 years.

Seven victims aged under the age of 13 were abused over almost a decade in the Walsall and Wolverhampton areas, in what a judge said was a “prolonged and sustained” campaign that left children “terribly psychologically damaged”.

The gang carried out horrific sexual offences against seven young children in Walsall, which spanned almost a decade. Credit: West Midlands Police

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it was the largest child sexual abuse investigation in the West Midlands.

West Midlands Police say the offending came to light in 2017 and an operation dubbed Operation Satchel began to find the culprits.

A team of officers worked with Social Services firstly to safeguard the children and then carefully uncover what had happened to them.

Officers conducted more than 70 suspect interviews as they sought to bring the offenders to justice, resulting in multiple charges against each defendant and sentences of up to life in prison.

Matthew Evans Credit: West Midlands Police

Matthew Evans, who is 32 was jailed for 17 and half years at Wolverhampton Crown Court.

John Griffiths Credit: West Midlands Police

John Griffiths, who is 66, was also jailed for 17 and a half years.

Violet Griffiths Credit: West Midlands Police

Violet Griffiths, who is also 66, was jailed for 15 years.

Natasha Webb Credit: West Midlands Police

Natasha Webb who is 37, gave evidence for the prosecution in three criminal trials, and was jailed for nine years.

She was the only one of the four who pleaded guilty to multiple child sex offences, and the other three were convicted by a jury.

Two separate sentencing hearings today (June 2nd) with one for Webb and the other for the remaining defendants, heard that the victims had been left traumatised by the abuse.

West Midlands Police say it was the biggest investigation of its kind in the force's history Credit: ITV News Central

Judge Simon Ward said those who had been convicted “cared nothing for the general rules of society or the laws that make it a crime to have sex with children”.

He said:

“You used children as sexual objects for your own pleasure. The result of what you did has left the victims traumatised and seriously harmed emotionally.

“They came to believe sex with adults was normal.”

Referring to one of the victims, who cannot be named for legal reasons, Judge Ward said it would take “many years” for them to live a normal life because of the “depraved” abuse.

He added that the same victim had suffered psychotic episodes, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and had tried to take their own life.

What was Operation Satchel ?

Wolverhampton Crown Court heard that other victims had also shown signs of PTSD.

Sentencing Evans, Judge Ward acknowledged the defendant was “significantly younger” when he carried out the abuse, although still an adult, and that he had not reoffended and was now married.

But he said Evans’ crimes were “terrible”, adding:

“According to you, you are innocent, but the jury said otherwise. It is clear to me you do have a sexual interest in children.”

As well as the jail term, with a 12-month extended licence period after that, Evans was also subject to a sexual harm prevention order (SHPO) for 30 years and an indefinite restraining order, and must serve two-thirds of his sentence in jail before he can be considered for release.

For Violet and John Griffiths, Judge Ward acknowledged that neither had any previous convictions, that character references spoke highly of them, and the offences happened more than ten years ago.

But he said he believed the pair had a sexual interest in children although they both denied it, and jailed Violet Griffiths, with a SHPO for 20 years and an indefinite restraining order.

John Griffiths was also subject to a 12-month extended licence, a 20-year SHPO and an indefinite restraining order.

He must serve two-thirds of his sentence behind bars before the Parole Board will decide if he can be released.

In an earlier hearing today, Webb was jailed for a total of nine years, six of which will be spent in prison, with three on licence.

She was also given an indefinite restraining order and an indefinite SHPO.

That hearing heard that Webb, who has a learning disability and an IQ of 59, was “easily manipulated and influenced by those who are more able”.

"None of the rest have shown the slightest remorse"

Joanne Jakymec, Chief Crown Prosecutor for the CPS, praised the bravery of the victims and witnesses in coming forward and giving evidence throughout the trials.

She said:

“The 21 offenders convicted in Operation Satchel perpetrated the most abhorrent catalogue of systematic sexual abuse on seven children.

"The scale, depravity and deeply disturbing nature of which is unlike anything I have seen during my time working for the CPS and has shocked everyone who has been involved in bringing them to justice.

"The cruel abuse which they inflicted on the victims for years has caused them physical and extreme psychological harm, leaving them traumatised.

“I would like to thank and commend all of the victims and the witnesses for their bravery in coming forward and giving evidence – it is their courage which enabled us to bring this case to court and see justice served.

“This has been a complex and challenging case which, due to the sheer number of defendants involved, required us to prepare for and present evidence in three separate trials which took place over a period of 18 months to successfully secure this outcome.

“With the exception of one defendant, who admitted what they had done, none of the rest have shown the slightest remorse.

"I would also like to thank the West Midlands Police investigation team who worked with the CPS over five years, painstakingly reviewing a huge amount of evidence to ensure that this large network of child sexual abusers was prosecuted and convicted.

“All children have the right to feel safe and protected.

We hope the outcome of this case will encourage anyone who may be in a similar position to come forward to report these incidents to the police, knowing we will do all we can to prosecute where there is sufficient evidence to do so and offer support for victims".

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