Colin Blanchard, leader of an online paedophile ring described as “one of the most sickening” ever seen, has been sentenced to a minimum of nine years in jail. Darshna Soni reports from the court.
Blanchard was given an indeterminate sentence with a minimum term of nine years at Bristol Crown Court for his role as ring leader of the group, which saw children abused in a nursery.
The IT consultant convinced four women – Vanessa George, 40, Tracy Lyons, 41, Tracy Dawber, 44, and Angela Allen, 40 – to sexually assault young children and share the indecent images with him.
Two of the women were also sentenced alongside Blanchard today. Tracy Lyons was jailed for seven years and Tracy Dawber for four years. Vanessa George and Angela Allen are already serving indeterminate prison sentences.
Silence in court
There was silence in court today, as we listened to horrific details of the abuse Colin Blanchard carried out on young children, writes Darshna Soni from Bristol.
One of the most disturbing aspects of this case is that he met random women online and within weeks, persuaded them to also commit horrific acts.
It's rare that we hear of women abusing children. All of those in Blanchard's ring were mothers, one pregnant at the time. The most notorious, Vanessa George, was a nursery worker who abused the very children she should have looked after.
DC Claire Vincent, of Hampshire Police, investigated one of the women, Tracy Lyons, sentenced with Blanchard today. She told me there is a danger in making assumptions that all child abusers are men. Children's charities believe that it is still a taboo subject and that as much as 15 per cent of child abusers could be women.
In their defence, the women tried to claim Blanchard manipulated them into taking the images. But the judge said they were grown adults, who knew perfectly well that what they were doing was wrong. The court heard that at times, they all competed to take the "best" pictures.
Prosecutors described the defendants as “one of the most sickening paedophile rings this country has seen”.
Passing sentence, the judge – Mr Justice Royce – said: “This case involving the three of you, together with Vanessa George and Angela Allen, has caused widespread revulsion and disbelief.
“Your influence Colin Blanchard – described this morning as Svengali-like – over four separate women, so they engaged in sexual abuse of children in such tender years, is frightening. It is more extraordinary when one appreciates you never actually met three of them face to face.
“It is beyond the ken of decent people how any of you could stoop as disgustingly low as you did.”
Police exposed the paedophile ring when a work colleague of Blanchard called them after finding images of child sex abuse on Blanchard’s computer.
Detectives then identified nursery worker Vanessa George, mother-of-nine Tracy Lyons, community care worker Tracy Dawber and ex-prostitute Angela Allen as the other members of the gang.
Dawber was the only one of the women to have met Blanchard. She had a year-long relationship with him, but the other women were convinced to abuse the children over the internet.
George – who called herself Blanchard’s “paedo whore mum” – abused children at Little Ted’s nursery in Plymouth and sent Blanchard up to eight pictures a week, and the others also assaulted children to please Blanchard.
Blanchard, George, Allen and Lyons pleaded guilty to a string of charges of sexual assault and making and possessing child pornography.
The final member of the ring to be convicted was Dawber, who was found guilty in October after a re-trial.
Greville Davis, representing Blanchard, said the father-of-two was a “broken man” who had been diagnosed as suffering bi-polar disorder and was “at a loss to explain his disgusting behaviour”.
He said Blanchard had lost contact with both of his daughters, one from a previous marriage, and his wife, as a result of his crimes.
“Colin Blanchard stands before your Lordship a broken man,” he said.
“He is at a loss to explain why he behaved the way he did and is at a loss to explain his disgusting behaviour.”
Lyons was also described as “a pariah” for her role in the abuse.