Judge William Ashworth took over two hours to consider what sentence he would hand to depraved serial paedophile Mark Burgess, 68, who shattered the lives of 13 children with his routine abuse spanning from the 1970s to the 2000s.
The child abuser had exploited his position while working as a teacher at Portsmouth City Boys’ School and when running choirs at St John’s Church in Westbourne and All Saints Church in Commercial Road resulting in him being found guilty of 48 sex offences against children.
Judge Ashworth, addressing the victims who had read out statements at Burgess’ sentence hearing, said: ‘I want to commend the victims in the case for their bravery in coming forward and putting themselves through the experience of being cross examined and giving evidence before a jury about the traumatic events.
‘You have done so in my view with dignity and restraint and with a stunning openness.’
He added: ‘Many of the victims spoke about feelings of guilt and shame. I would ask them to consider the young children they were who are now traumatised adults and whether it is right to say they should bear the burden of guilt. They did not commit the offences.
‘You have all come forward to give evidence, which has been to at a price for some of you. But we cannot conduct a case without witnesses being put to the test so I am extremely grateful. Your bravery must be acknowledged.’
Hampshire police’s Detective Inspector Adam Edwards said: ‘Burgess made a choice to exploit his position and manipulate certain scenarios that would give him the opportunity to carry out these heinous and evil acts.
‘These were young children, and he deliberately preyed on their naivety for his own sordid agenda.’
Burgess, of St Chad’s Avenue, Hilsea, will have to serve at least 21 years behind bars of his jail term.
Contact the NSPCC helpline confidentially on 0808 800 5000 or email [email protected] Children can contact Childline on 0800 1111.
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