Two detectives who helped bring a Singleton care home owner who sexually abused children to justice have received awards.
Detective Constable Amy Pooley and Specialist Case Worker Jenny Bristow tirelessly carried out a complex investigation, culminating in a conviction in December last year.
John Michael Webber, 78, of Clifton Hill in Brighton denied his crimes to the end, but was found guilty and jailed for 32 years.
A jury found him guilty of a staggering 26 historic sex offences, which took place while he owned the Old Rectory Children’s Home in Church Road, Singleton, near Chichester, which has long since closed.
DC Pooley and Ms Bristow were recognised at a special ceremony alongside other officers, staff and members of the public - all for their work with Public Protection Command.
Webber's ‘overwhelmingly grave abuse of trust’
After a lengthy trial, Webber was found guilty of: 19 charges of indecent assault on a male person, two charges of indecency with a child, three of serious sexual assault and two of attempted serious sexual assault.
Prosecutor Jennifer Knight said his offences involved an ‘overwhelmingly grave abuse of trust’.
Brave impact statements from some of Webber’s many victims were read out in court, explaining how his crimes still affect them to this day.
One survivor – who cannot be named for legal reasons – said he wonders what his life could have been like had it not been for Webber.
Praise for staff at Public Protection Command
Chief Superintendent Jayne Dando, Head of the Public Protection Command, said: “Our officers and staff protect some of the most vulnerable people across Sussex.
"We work closely with partners and other police teams to protect both children and adults who are vulnerable through domestic abuse, sexual abuse or because of their mental health or circumstance. We also have strategic force responsibility for working with other agencies in the management of some of the most dangerous offenders in Sussex.
“It is an increasingly complex and challenging area of work, and the demand is growing all the time, but it can also be highly professionally satisfying.
“Our work is usually unseen by the general public, but although we do not wear uniform or patrol the streets we are still very much at the front line of operational policing.
“Much of what my teams do involves exposure to some of the most distressing and challenging personal situations, whether with victims or offenders, in our society.
“I am very proud of the dedication and resolute professionalism that our officers and staff show every day.”
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Police commissioner: 'Considerate approach and excellent investigative capabilities'
Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said: “The police officers and staff who work in public protection roles rarely get the public recognition they deserve because of the sensitive nature of their investigations and the confidentiality they must provide to protect victims.
“I have spoken to many victims of sexual assault, exploitation and abuse and they tell me just how much they appreciated the way public protection officers treated them during the most distressing and frightening times, building the necessary trust for victims to provide evidence to identify and prosecute offenders.
“On behalf of those victims and the countless others that you deal you, I want to thank and commend you all for your patient and considerate approach and excellent investigative capabilities.”
For a variety of legal and personal reasons, it is not possible to report publicly on many of the awards at this time.
Anyone who is the victim of such offences, or knows anyone who is, can contact Sussex Police online or by calling 101 and arrange to talk in confidence to experienced investigators.