John Laister, 77, jailed for sexual offences at May Lodge children's home, Scarborough

A former Sunday school teacher is the latest man to be jailed for the rape and systematic sexual abuse of children at the May Lodge children’s home in Scarborough in the 1960s and 70s.

By Court reporter
Monday, 9th September 2019, 1:49 pm
May Lodge children's home.
May Lodge children's home.

Former care worker John William Laister, 77, was jailed for 11 years at York Crown Court on Tuesday.

He was already serving a 14-year prison sentence for similar offences in the past.

The child rapist, described as a “sexual predator of monstrous proportions”, was in his 20s when he preyed on a young girl at May Lodge, a sprawling Victorian building which has now shut down.

Sign up to our daily The Scarborough News Today newsletter

He also sexually abused a youngster while teaching at a Sunday school in Bradford in the 1970s. The girls were aged between eight and 12 years’ old.

Laister was initially charged with 15 counts of sexual offences in the 1960s and 70s, including 10 counts of indecent assault, four counts of indecency with a child and one count of raping the girl at May Lodge when she was between nine and 11 years’ old.

He denied a few of the indecent-assault charges, which the court allowed to lie on file. One of these allegations was made by a second young girl at May Lodge.

Prosecutor Gerald Hendron said Laister sexually abused the girls for years and would get them to perform sex acts on him.

One of the victims, who lived at May Lodge in the 1960s and 70s, said Laister abused her “day in and day out”.

“I fear I may never be able to get over this,” she added.

She had undergone counselling because the abuse had had a “profound effect on me both physically and emotionally”.

“It has affected my ability to form relationships,” she added. “I became withdrawn as a child and did not make friends easily – something I still find difficult.”

She said she had a “total lack of trust in men”, adding: “For many years (since the abuse) I did not like to be touched (or) hugged, and I still find this difficult. As a result, I had a couple of relationship breakdowns and I’ve been on my own for 20 years.

“The abuse shattered my confidence from an early age. My lack of trust in people has made my life a lonelier place.”

The victim, now middle-aged, said the protracted investigation into Laister’s “vile behaviour”, launched in 2014, had affected her work life due to stress.

In fact, way back in 1989, Laister openly admitted to the Metropolitan Police that he had sexually abused the girl at May Lodge and a youngster at the Sunday school when they hauled him in for questioning about similar crimes in the south of England. Laister even gave them the name of the girl at May Lodge, but police didn’t act upon it.

Mr Hendron said Laister admitted offences against young girls the police already knew about but also gave them the names of 10-to-15 other youngsters he had abused.

Following his belated guilty pleas to the sexual abuse at May Lodge and the Sunday school, Laister - who worked in publishing after his previous career in care - released a statement which read: “I know that I have hurt and blighted the lives of many people when they were younger and I deeply regret that.”

Defence barrister Ben Campbell said Laister had been working in the publishing industry until the age of 72, when he was arrested for his crimes in Bradford. His wife of 25 years was still standing by him.

In 2014, Laister was jailed for 14 years at Bradford Crown Court for sexually abusing other children and raping a girl under 16 years of age. The then sentencing judge Peter Benson said Laister was a “sexual predator of monstrous proportions” in the 1970s.

Laister is still serving that sentence in maximum-security Full Sutton Prison near York. His scheduled release date before the new offences came to light was 2021.

His first sentence for the sexual abuse of children was in 1973, when he was given a suspended prison term for unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl under 16, whom he also indecently assaulted.

In 1991, following his admissions to the Metropolitan Police regarding his offences in the south of England, he was jailed for three-and-a-half years at St Albans Crown Court in Hertfordshire.

Judge Simon Morris, the Recorder of York, condemned Laister for his horrific sex crimes against the girls in Scarborough and Bradford, one of whom was a “lonely little girl in a children’s home, abandoned by her parents, (with) nobody to turn to, apart from the people who ran the children’s home”.

“You worked there, you were in a position of trust and you used that opportunity to sexually abuse and rape her,” said the judge.

“The effect on her life has been long-lasting, profound and devastating.”

He said the effect on the girl who was abused at the Sunday school was just as devastating and “still ongoing”.

Mr Morris expressed his dismay that Laister’s confessions way back in the 1980s weren’t followed up by police.

“They could have been so easily followed up and (with) a little bit of investigation work…. these offences that I’m dealing with could and should have been dealt with many, many years ago,” he added.

Laister was jailed for a further 11 years, which means his original release date of 2021 has now been put back to at least 2025, when he will be in his 80s.

He was told he would have to serve at least two-thirds of his sentence behind bars or until the Parole Board deems him fit to be released.

He was also ordered to serve an extra one year on prison licence upon his eventual release and the judge confirmed he would remain on the sex-offenders’ register for life.

Laister’s sentence follows other high-profile cases in which other former care workers at May Lodge received hefty jail sentences for abusing children.

In July, Maurice Berry, 64, from North Somercotes, Lincolnshire, was jailed for 13 years for the rape and systematic sexual abuse of children as young as seven at the care home in the 1970s.

The previous month, Raymond Vasey, 72, from Darlington, was jailed for 17 years for raping and sexually abusing youngsters at the home.