Church of England Priest Abused Children over 11-year Period, Court Told
By Robert Booth
April 9, 2013
|Former Anglican priest Gordon Rideout arrives at Lewes crown court in East Sussex. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA
More than a dozen children at a Barnardo's home in Sussex were victims of sexual abuse by a Church of England priest, a court heard on Tuesday.
Boys and girls aged five to 18 were subjected to indecent assaults during the 1960s in the dormitories, outbuildings and grounds of Ifield Hall near Crawley by Canon Gordon Rideout, it was claimed. Some were severely beaten by orphanage staff when they complained, as part of "a brutal regime where children were taught to behave by beatings".
Rideout, now 73 and retired from the diocese of Chichester, was then an assistant curate at the nearby St Mary's church in Southgate, where the children attended Sunday services.
A jury at Lewes crown court heard that Rideout faces charges of 37 separate sexual offences against 17 children between 1962 and 1973 at Ifield, at another Barnardo's home at Barkingside in Essex, and at the Middle Wallop army base in Hampshire where he served as forces chaplain.
Among the offences, Rideout is accused of twice attempting to rape a girl aged between 11 and 14, in his flat after choir practice and again in the woods near the Ifield home, attacks which left the girl fearing she was pregnant. The same woman also claims Rideout indecently assaulted her three times – once when she was ill with glandular fever, and on another occasion when she was painting Easter eggs.
Rideout sipped water and took notes as the allegations were set out by Philip Bennetts QC to a jury of eight women and four men.
He denies the charges and told arresting police officers he was "shocked and amazed" at the allegations, the jury heard. He described his visits to Ifield as "just calling in on a friend".
In interviews after his arrest in March last year he denied going into dormitories and described himself as a "touchy-feely" person, saying he would hug, kiss and "may have rubbed a leg".
The jury was told it would hear testimonies by recorded video and in person from the alleged victims in a two-month trial. Bennetts said one woman, who alleges Rideout sexually assaulted her when she was 14 and 15 as she recovered from a severe beating, said that when she threatened to tell the Barnardo's superintendent – known as Uncle Hutch – about what Rideout was doing, he replied: "You'll get what you deserve, another beating."
She was "too scared" to report him, she said. "The beatings were so much worse than what that man was doing. The beatings were terrible, absolutely terrible."
Rideout allegedly twice assaulted another girl, between the ages of six and nine, while he offered to get her a doll she wanted, the jury heard. When she screamed in pain he told her not to or she wouldn't get her dolly, the court heard. On the first occasion she ran off and told Uncle Hutch.
"She had her mouth washed with soap and was hit really hard," the court heard.
Rideout is also accused of assaulting a girl aged between 12 and 13, whom he found sleeping alone in the dormitory.
After touching her private parts, he tried to make her kiss his genitals, Bennetts said. "He said I should kiss it because I'd be kissing the hand of God," the court heard she said. When she told Uncle Hutch what had happened, she was accused of lying and "they threw me against the wall and I had a broken rib".
Another resident of the home alleges Rideout attempted to rape her twice and indecently assaulted her three times between the ages of 11 and 14. After choir practice at Rideout's church, he asked her to bring books back to his flat, telling her he had "squared it with the children's home". When she arrived he took all her clothes off and attempted to rape her on his bed, the court heard.
Rideout also assaulted young boys at the home, Bennetts told the jury.
A man now in his sixties alleges he was targeted twice aged nine. Another man said he was assaulted on trips out from the home and two others said they were assaulted in the stairwell, dormitory and greenhouse.
"I've got to do it," Rideout told one, the court heard. Asked why, he replied: "I like little boys."
Rideout was tried by court martial in 1972 on allegations of indecent assault against three girls while he was chaplain at the Middle Wallop army base. He was acquitted. He now faces allegations of sexual assault during and after choir practice against two girls aged 10 who were children of servicemen at the base. The trial continues.