A retired choirmaster in the diocese of Chester has been jailed for molesting choir boys. Richard Owen (70) admitted to 27 offences of indecent assault against 14 underage boys and on 30 September 2022 was jailed for 12 years by the Chester Crown Court. Between 1968 and 1998 Owen molested young boys at St John’s Altrincham, St John’s Over in Winsford and St Cross in Knutsford. The court heard testimoney that Owen was a serial predator and had committed “hundreds” of assaults. Owen was arrested in March 2020 and charged this past January after Cheshire Constabulary launched an investigation following a “past cases review” into allegations of sexual abuse commissioned by the Church of England.
Detective Inspector Dave Hutcheon, of Cheshire Constabulary’s major investigation team, released a statement after the sentence was handed down. “Owen preyed on young and innocent children betraying their trust for his own sexual gratification while also becoming infatuated and obsessed with them.
“The decades of abuse and his behaviour deeply affected so many boys in many ways and continued into their adulthood.
“The investigation has been long and, at times, difficult in order to identify and speak to those who suffered Owen’s abuse. Investigations like these carry an important message – if you have been a victim of abuse it doesn’t matter how long ago it took place, what matters is the courage to come forward and talk about it,” he said.
Following the sentencing, BIshop Julie Conalty, Bishop of Birkenhead and Lead Bishop for Safeguarding in the Diocese of Chester issued the following statement:
“I want to thank those who raised concerns about Richard Owen, especially the victims for assisting the police with their investigation. Their courage, strength of character and determination to see justice done has resulted in the conviction of a serial sex offender.
“Despite the passage of time, I am aware that for many the abuse they have suffered will have a life-long impact and I continue to pray for all those affected by this case.
“It is appalling that Richard Owen used his position as a trusted choirmaster to facilitate his abuse of young boys over many years and I feel a deep sense of shame that this happened in our Diocese and that some of the abuse was perpetrated in our church buildings.
“It is much harder for abusers to hide in plain sight in our churches and projects nowadays, but Safeguarding is a never-ending task, and we remain committed to vigilance and to ensuring that the correct safeguarding practices and processes are followed.
“I hope that the awareness that this case brings might be an encouragement to others to come forward to report safeguarding concerns or abuse. You will be listened to, taken seriously and cared for.”