Four paedophiles who abused children over five decades have been jailed for 63 years – by a judge who branded them ‘monsters of the deepest, darkest depths’.
Joseph Foster, 74, Logan Morris, 71, Martin Belgium, 55, and Stephen Amos, 62 were convicted of 27 offences against nine victims.
The predators raped and molested seven girls and two boys in a “morass” of offending spanning from the late 1970s to 2012.
Jailing the gang for 63 years, Judge Julian Lambert said: “The sump of depravity in which you wallowed and the extent of the damage which you did is utterly staggering.
“You generated a choking fog of misery which may never lift.
“Only time and compassion may make it thinner and hopefully memories may fade; there is no assurance they will.
“You are truly monsters in the deepest, darkest depths of corruption.”
A six-week trial at Bristol Crown Court heard that the four friends groomed the seven girls and two boys – some as young as five – in Knowle, Bristol.
David Scutt, prosecuting, told the jury: “At first sight the scale and subject matter of this case must seem rather daunting.
“Ultimately this squalid case is about four men sexually abusing boys and girls.
“It became a way of life. They abused children together. They abused them apart.
“They got away with it for many years.”
One of the offenders, Martin Belgium, was accused of giving a girl “secret privileged tutorials”, which she went along with as she felt she was being educated.
Other children went along with the abuse in exchange for “fags, sweets and money” and thought it was normal, with one girl saying it was as regular as “washing up”.
She told police: “It wasn’t something that was lovely and it wasn’t something that you wanted to do but it was just one of those kind of things that happened.”
Another said: “It was a public thing so it must have been acceptable to everybody. I just assumed everybody knew – the way it was done, it was so public.”
The court heard that though the abuse was obvious and in the open, much of it went unreported at the time.
When it was reported it was dismissed, ignored or not pursued by authorities such as police and social services.
One complainant revealed she had been abused in a police interview in 1986.
Her mum, who was with her, reacted by moving her chair away and saying: “I can’t believe you, you dirty slag”.
In the sentencing hearing, Jennifer Tallentire, prosecuting, read Judge Lambert moving impact statements penned by the victims.
One wrote: “The abuse planted a seed in me that paved the way for self-destruction.
“I’ve felt lost most of my life. It made me trust the wrong people. It made me lack self-esteem. I felt ashamed. I felt what happened to me as a child was my fault.”
Another wrote: “It’s like a nightmare I never wake up from. I’ve got their nasty paw prints over me.”
Many of the men’s victims attended court to see their abusers jailed, along with eight members of the jury which convicted them.
Foster, of Southmead, Bristol, was found guilty of two rapes, two indecent assaults, one attempted rape and three counts of indecency with a child.
The pensioner was jailed for 18 years and will serve a further four years on licence.
Morris, formerly of Hartcliffe, Bristol, was found guilty of six indecent assaults and three attempted rapes and was locked up for 15 years.
Belgium, of Easton, Bristol, was jailed for 12 years after after being convicted of two indecent assaults and two attempted rapes.
Amos, of Taunton, Somerset, was convicted of four rapes, one indecent assault and one count of indecency with a child.
He was jailed for 18 years and will serve a further four years on licence.
After the hearing on Thursday, Detective Constable Julie Bryan-Young of Avon and Somerset Constabulary paid tribute to the bravery of the victims.
She said the predators who abused them “gave no thought to the long-term pain and torment” they were inflicting.
“They have displayed the utmost bravery and courage throughout our investigation and the proceeding trial,”
DC Bryan-Young added that the men “abused their position of trust with the victims for their own sexual gratification”.
“These men have refused to take any responsibility for these truly despicable crimes, forcing some of their victims to relive their ordeal by giving evidence at the trial.
“The crimes committed by these men are abhorrent and I have no doubt will have a lasting effect on all the victims and their families,” she said.
An NSPCC spokesman for South West England said: “The victims were extremely brave in speaking out.
“As a result these men have finally been punished for their hugely damaging actions.”