Elderly lay reader from Warwick jailed for historic sex offences

A lay reader at a Warwick church who sexually abused a teenage boy in the 1990s was arrested after the offences came to light when his victim made a complaint against another man.
Court news.Court news.
Court news.

And despite now suffering from serious health conditions, abuser David Palmer was jailed for three years by a judge who also ordered him to register as a sex offender for life.

Palmer, 81, of Woodhouse Street, Warwick, had pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to four charges of indecent assault and two of gross indecency with a child.

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Prosecutor Andrew Wallace said the offences against the boy, who was ‘a vulnerable individual,’ took place in the 1990s, when Palmer was a lay reader at St Paul’s Church in Warwick.

But they did not come to light until the victim, now in his 40s, went to the police to complain about abuse he suffered as a boy at the hands of someone from another Warwick church.

The man, who had come forward after reading of Alan Baker’s abuse of another teenager, told them of abuse he had also been subjected to by Baker when he was 14 or 15.

As a result Baker, a former assistant verger at St Mary’s Collegiate Church in Warwick, was jailed for two-and-a-half years earlier this year.

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But in the course of his interview, he also disclosed that a couple of years later, when he was 17, he had also been sexually abused by Palmer.

“He described the behaviour of Palmer as being more overtly abusive than the other person, in terms of the degree of control and manipulation,” said Mr Wallace.

“There was a significant degree of grooming.

“Palmer informed him he would help him prepare for sexual relationships, saying he wanted to shape him and help him to grow.”

During incidents at two addresses, one in Warwick and the other nearby, Palmer touched the boy indecently on a number of occasions, and also got the boy to do the same to him and to perform sex acts on him.

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And on one occasion Palmer got the teenager in a position where it seemed he was about have intercourse with him – but then told him it was to show how he could be at risk of such behaviour.

When Palmer was arrested, he said he did not know if he had had a sexual relationship with the teenager.

But he then claimed the youth had had a crush on him, and that ‘like an idiot’ he had fallen for it, claiming it was the boy who had wanted sexual activity.

Jabeen Akhtar, defending, observed: “These offences took place a very long time ago, when the penalties were far lower than they are now.

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“It is clear this man has been in denial for a very long time.

“He finds it hard to accept what he has done.

“He just can’t understand why he allowed himself to be in that situation.

“Even he cannot explain what went wrong in his life at that time. His wife had passed away, and he was a very lonely figure, and has been since then. He keeps himself to himself, and has cut his ties to the church.”

Miss Akhtar said Palmer has serious health problems, and has undergone an amputation to his right leg, but has been having difficulties and needs to go back to the amputation clinic.

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In addition he has a heart problem and his lungs are not effective, and he is on ‘a huge amount of medication,’ she added, asking the judge to consider a suspended sentence because of the difficulties Palmer would have in prison.

But jailing Palmer, Recorder Anthony Potter told him: “I recognise you are a far from healthy man, and that a prison sentence will be difficult for you to cope with.

“That is significant mitigation in my judgement, and the most significant mitigation is that, years later, you have had the courage to plead guilty.

“While your interview is far from frank, and some of your comments are unpleasant, in seeking to undermine him, in large parts you did admit the activity which took place.

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“But your offending is so serious that it demands an immediate custodial sentence.

“You and people like you have continued to have an effect on people who volunteer in religious communities throughout the country, by such behaviour.”