A FORMER choirboy who was sexually abused at a Gosport church’s sailing club more than 40 years ago says he has got justice as the man who ‘stole his innocence’ was jailed earlier this month.
Steve Hammond, 57, a manager at BT, had never spoken of the abuse he suffered as a teenager until he went on a child protection course for the same sailing club he had been ‘groomed’ at decades earlier by Mervyn Dyer.
Having waived his right to anonymity after Dyer, 66, of Newport Road in Gosport, was sentenced this month, Mr Hammond told The News that the training course had been the catalyst that led to him telling his wife and the police what happened to him at St Mary’s Junior Sailing Club during the late 60s.
‘The woman running the course started saying that a lot of children don’t report abuse until they are adults and I thought “that is me”. After the course, I walked up to her and confided in her. She was very professional and supportive.
‘My wife asked me how the course went and the floodgates opened. That evening I decided I was going to report it to the police. On the Monday afternoon I went down to Gosport police station. It was closed when I got there. I was on my knees sobbing my heart out and a female PC found me. She took me in and then Neil Harrison, my case officer, contacted me and was very supportive.’
Mr Hammond was interviewed in May and Dyer was arrested.
Dyer was a volunteer at the church and helped teach boys to sail.
According to prosecutor Tammy Mears, it was clear that Dyer had a position of authority over the young people.
Miss Mears said Dyer ‘groomed’ his victim with cigarettes in an outbuilding. She said over time, matters progressed and the offending behaviour escalated.
Between January, 1 1969 and December 31, 1972, Dyer committed acts of indecent assault on a regular basis.
‘Mr Hammond said he was never forced to do anything but the position that Dyer held over Mr Hammond made him feel that he had no choice other than to participate,’ she said.
Mr Hammond broke free from his abuser when he started a relationship with a girl and spent less time at the club.
He is now a volunteer sailing officer and helps maintain the buildings and boats at St Mary’s Junior Sailing Club.
‘In a way it was a disappointment Dyer pleaded guilty,’ he said.
‘If I had given evidence he would know how it has affected my whole life – whether he cares or not. Anyone can say they are sorry and he has had plenty of time to think about it.’
New rules that came into force this month meant Mr Hammond was able to read his victim impact statement out to the court. As he stood in the witness box, describing the impact Dyer’s abuse has had on his adult life, Mr Hammond was overcome with emotion and Judge Richard Price asked him to stand down.
‘I just want him to know what he has done,’ Mr Hammond told the judge.
His statement says the abuse has been a “sentence on my life for the last 44 years”. ‘I am more than happy with his sentence,’ Mr Hammond said.
Alistair Wright, defending, said his client had pleaded guilty but could not remember the offences and denied it had gone on for three years.
‘The context of cigarettes was very different to how it is today,’ said Mr Wright. ‘The context of people smoking and offering cigarettes to those who do not smoke was effectively the norm.
‘The defendant had a sheltered background, a church background, and that maintained itself for much of his adult life. Mr Dyer had no idea about his sexuality and that remains the case today.
‘He has no idea why he conducted himself the way he did. That will be no consolation to Mr Hammond.’
Judge Richard Price said he was unable to jail Dyer for more than three years because he had to follow the law that applied when the offences occurred. He was sentenced to two years at Portsmouth Crown Court – because of his early guilty plea he was entitled to a third off his custodial sentence.
Judge Price said: ‘You stole his innocence. What you did has had a devastating impact on him for 44 years and will for the rest of his life.’
He told Mr Hammond: ‘I hope this will bring you some sort of closure.’
Dyer’s name has been added to the Sex Offenders’ Register and he has been banned from working with children.
‘I hope if anyone else was abused this will help them to find the strength to come forward,’ Steve said. ‘I find it hard to believe that I was the only one. Why would he have stopped after me?’
STATEMENT REVEALS EFFECT OF ABUSE
Mr Hammond’s victim impact statement, which was read to the court:
‘On Saturday, May 18, I attended a child protection course, and that is when my world fell apart, the course was the trigger which unlocked all the memories that I had buried deep in my mind.
‘I went home and told my wife, and she was the first person I had ever spoken to about the abuse after 44 years of keeping these memories buried. That weekend I felt that I was doing nothing other than cry.
‘In the days that followed I had horrible graphic images flash into my mind of what happened at the time. I would burst into tears for no apparent reason, despite having my family supporting me and around me, I felt lonely and hated my own company.
‘I flipped at times over minor situations, over things that I would normally handle without any problems. My doctor prescribed me sleeping tables to help me and I still have to use them when the memories of what happened catch up with me.
‘My church helped me locate a charitable organisation that have provided me with further interim counselling for six weeks to help me copy with day-to-day life. I am on the waiting list for further treatment from this organisation but have been advised that the waiting list is currently 12 months.
‘I am still feeling lonely, sad and having flashbacks and bursting into tears for no apparent reason.
‘Mr Dyer stole my innocence and negatively affected my normal development into a young man, and this impact has been a sentence on my life for the last 44 years.
‘Some issues may be with me for life.’
WHERE TO SEEK HELP
If you are a victim of sexual abuse, help is at hand. You can contact Victim Support, a national charity which gives confidential advice to victims, witnesses and their families, on 0845 30 30 900. It also has a team of volunteers that can visit you.
The Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre can be contacted on 0808 802 9999 and Rape and Abuse have two separate numbers; for men it’s 0808 8000 122 and for women it’s 0808 8000 123.
Alternatively, call Hampshire Constabulary on 101.