Febuary 2012

Witham Ex-Scoutmaster John Essam who exploited girls sent to jail

A FORMER Scout leader has been jailed for more than ten years for “horrendous” sexual assaults on underage girls.

John Essam, of Boydin Close, Witham, admitted 17 charges of sexual assault, and downloading hundreds of pornographic images of children.

Residents of the quiet cul-de-sac where he lived say they were scared of the 41-year-old and refused to let their children play outside after they learned he had a previous conviction for downloading child porn.

When Essam, who was a leader of the 14th Chelmsford Scouts until 2005, was charged with sexually abusing two 14-year-old girls last year one resident confronted him.

Linda Craven, 36, of Hatfield Road, a mother of two young children, said: “After the charges he walked past us and said ‘hello girls’ to my children. I just flipped. I told him not to talk to my children and then asked straight out, ‘are you a paedophile?’

“He got really upset and said: ‘I’ll have you done for slander’.”

Chelmsford Crown Court heard that Essam knew one of the 14-year-old girls through an ex-girlfriend and bombarded her with explicit letters, saying they should become best friends.

In these letters, sent during the 1990s, he said there should be no secrets between them and demanded to know about her sex life and her relationship with a young boy.

Essam later took her to a number of different locations where he sexually abused her.

The second teenager was subjected to a serious sexual assault she described as “horrendous”.

Essam told his victims he would kill himself if they ever told anyone about what he had done.

Prosecutor Gregory Perrins said Essam had been given a laptop to fix by a friend. Essam had then downloaded 723 indecent images of children on to it.

These images were from levels two to four on the scale of seriousness, of which level five is the worst.

Judge David Turner QC, described Essam as having an abnormal attraction to young girls.

“You have significant paedophile leanings,” he said.

The same judge had previously imposed a suspended jail sentence when Essam breached a sex offenders’ prevention order in 2008, something he has done twice.

Judge Turner said: “Your motivation was sexual gratification and your means exploitation of young girls.

“You thoroughly corrupted and deeply affected them. They were subtly and deliberately manipulated.”

The residents of Boydin Close are furious with the authorities for letting Essam stay on their street – where he lived for eight years – after his 2008 conviction for breaching a sexual prevention order and downloading indecent images.

Father-of-four Brian Ellis, 46, said: “I’m absolutely furious that he was allowed to stay in a family area, close to a secondary school (Maltings Academy) given how sick he was.

“Our kids were kept indoors all through the summer holidays, unless we sat and watched them from the front gate.

“As far as I’m concerned 10 years is not enough. He should have got longer.”

Mitigating for Essam, lawyer Sarah Vine said he had expressed his remorse at all the people he had hurt.

Andrew Thrope, Essex spokesman for the Scout Association, said: “We are aware of court proceedings involving John Essam.

“We can confirm that he will never again work within the Scout Movement.”

Essam was jailed for ten years and three months. His victims can not be named for legal reasons.