Suffolk: Newsagent jailed for sex attacks on teen boys

A SUFFOLK shopkeeper who sexually assaulted five teenage boys has been jailed for three and a half years.

Anthony Francis, who owned two shops in Lowestoft, was found guilty by a jury at Ipswich Crown Court before Christmas of eight offences of indecent assault and two offences of sexual activity with a child and sentence was adjourned until yesterday.

Jailing 52-year-old Francis, who has been in custody since his conviction, and who had denied all the offences, Judge David Goodin said the defendant was a hard-working family man whose reputation in the area in which he lived and worked had been high.

However, he said it was plain that his reputation and high standing “masked another truth”, which was the offending for which he was to be sentenced.

He said Francis, of Yarmouth Road, Norwich, had sexually assaulted five teenagers aged between 13 and 16 over a 15-year period between 1992 and 2005 with a gap of eight years between some of the offences.

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He described what Francis had done as “serious” but said he didn’t consider him to be a danger to the public.

In addition to jailing Francis, who owned a shop in Maidstone Road, Lowestoft, between 1990-1995 before moving to premises in Norwich Road in the town, Judge Goodin also ordered him to sign on the sex offenders’ register indefinitely.

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After yesterday’s hearing, the mother of one of Francis’s victims said, “Justice has been done and it is hoped now that my son, my family and the other young men and their families can find some closure on these awful events.”

The woman said it was only when her son was undergoing treatment for a serious medical condition that he had confided in his family that he had been sexually abused on several occasions as a boy by Francis.

“It was a brave thing for him to do but it soon became evident after his disclosure that there were others who had also put these awful incidents to the back of their minds and said nothing. It was a very difficult thing for young men to disclose.”

“My advice to anyone who has been a victim of such crimes is to report it. It is not their fault. They are victims,” she added.

Referring to Francis’s assertion that the complainants had colluded together and made up their story for financial gain, the woman said: “It is beyond belief that these young men, who have good jobs, some of whom are married with children, would make up such a story and cause such upset and devastation to their families.”

“No-one had received any financial gain, just satisfaction that the truth is out and that after a four-week intensive trial the jury were able to reach the right decision in that Francis was found guilty of all ten counts.”

During the trial the witnesses claimed that Francis had sexually assaulted them in a basement office or in his private accommodation and had given them money afterwards to buy their silence.

John Farmer, for Francis, said that since his client’s conviction 131 customers of his shop had expressed their support of him.

“He is well regarded in the community and has worked hard and has brought up his family,” said Mr Farmer.

He said Francis and his family had been devastated by the jury’s guilty verdicts.

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