William John Starling 2002 Feb 26 Appeal Court – St Leonards

This is relevant to St Leonards, William John Starling and Tower Hamlets and this post Cathy Fox Blog St Leonards Childrens Home, Hornchurch, Essex Child Abuse [3] .


Some court reports have had victims names redacted and some assault details redacted.

This is a difficult balance –  normally I would think that  I should not “censor” details but on consultation with various people I have taken the decision to redact. This is mainly to protect victims, their friends and relatives from unnecessary detail and to stop the gratification of those who seek salacious details.

In addition to the obvious “victims redaction” to protect victims details, there may also be “assault redaction” across most of the spectrum of abuse. The assaults are left in the charges, but mainly redacted when repeated with reference to the individual. I have also redacted unnecessary detail of assaults.

Redaction may obscure sometimes the legal reason for the appeal, but should make no large difference to the vital information for researchers that these documents contain. That vital information is mainly names of the perpetrators, past addresses, institutions where assaults occurred, the actual charges the perpetrators faced, and dates – on which newspapers are pathetically inaccurate and this information enables the links between people and places and abuse at various times to be ascertained.

Some transcripts may have been subject to automatic reading software and whilst effort has been made to correct these, the text should not be regarded as definitive.  Common mistakes in reprinting here are that quotation marks are sometimes not correct, replaced by odd symbols.

If you think that the balance is not correct or that a particular redaction needs reconsideration, please say.

This particular post has not been redacted

Index of Newspaper and Journal articles on this blog [1]

Index of Court Appeals on this blog [2]

[2002] EWCA Crim 724

No: 200103313Z2


Tuesday 26 February 2002

Lord Justice Longmore



William John Starling

Computer Aided Transcript of the Stenograph Notes of Smith Bernal Reporting Limited 180 Fleet Street, London EC4A 2HD Tel No: 020 7421 4040 Fax No: 020 7831 8838 (Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)

No Appearance


(As approved by the Court)


the Recorder of Manchester to give the judgment of the Court.

2. THE RECORDER OF MANCHESTER: On 1st March 2001 at the Central Criminal Court before His Honour Judge Roberts and a jury, this applicant was convicted of two counts of rape, one count of buggery, two counts of indecent assault on a male and 13 counts of indecent assault on a female. Additionally, he was convicted of one count of committing gross indecency with a child.

3. On 6th April 2001 before the same learned judge he was sentenced to a total of 14 years’ imprisonment. It is not necessary to detail the specific sentences which went to make up that totality. He currently renews his application for an extension of time of 11 weeks and, if granted, for leave to appeal against conviction following refusal by the single judge.

4. The brief circumstances of this matter are these: the applicant, who was 74 years of age at the time of his trial and conviction, had been employed between 1969 and 1990 as a house parent at two children’s homes administered by Tower Hamlets Borough Council. It was alleged that whilst he was so employed he committed numerous sexual offences against children then under his care.

5. It was not, however, until December 1991 that the first complaint was made to the police. The applicant was arrested and interviewed in March 1992. On the advice of his solicitor he did not respond to questions put to him at that time. It was considered that there was insufficient evidence then to bring a prosecution. However, following a complaint against another member of staff at one of the institutions, an extensive investigation was initiated and in due course a large number of allegations against the applicant were made. He denied all of those allegations and indeed his case was a complete and total denial of any improper conduct towards any of the children under his care.

6. It was the case put forward on behalf of the applicant, resisted by the Crown, that there had been a proper system of supervision in operation at the children’s homes and there had been no complaints, or at least any of any relevance, against him by any of the children concerned until many years later.

7. However, as a result of certain questions to which we shall turn, put to one of the witnesses, one AA, by the learned trial judge, it was disclosed to the jury that a senior member of staff at the institution had been charged with sexual offences against children and was then awaiting trial. At that stage, leading counsel for the applicant applied for discharge of the jury on the ground that it was no longer possible for the applicant to receive a fair trial, an application which the learned judge refused.

8. The second matter of note that arose was that questions were put to a further witness for the Crown, one BB , by the learned trial judge, whereafter a further application to discharge the jury was made. This was on the grounds that the learned trial judge appeared to be implying that it was not unreasonable for a child not to complain in the circumstances. This application was also refused.

9. Those are matters specifically canvased on behalf of the applicant in the grounds of appeal, as settled by learned junior counsel. It is appropriate to observe, however, that the turn of events in due course was that by reason of a misunderstanding between both leading and junior counsel, the application was not furthered by the presentation to the court of advice and grounds on appeal. In submitting the advice and grounds some considerable time out of time, as we have said, 11 weeks, learned junior counsel indicated that both he and leading counsel apologised for the delay as each thought that the other was in charge of the task. Apologies were then submitted both to the court and to the applicant.

10. We shall turn in a moment to the specific grounds, but it is appropriate to say at this stage that regard must be had to the guidance given in the case of R v Burley , a decision of this court presided over by the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Taylor, dated 7th November 1994, No 93/5665/W4. The court there gave assistance in relation to situations where there has been a failure to observe the time rules by legal representatives. The court indicated this:

“We wish to make it clear that it is no answer to a failure to observe the time rules for solicitors to say: “Mea culpa; it is entirely our fault; do not let it redound to the disadvantage of our clients.” If that were so, solicitors could indulge in sloppy failures to observe time limits with impunity The rules are put there not for perverse reasons; they are put there to enable the court to manage its business in a proper manner. If cases are allowed to come in late, that means other cases which have been filed in time have to be held back. Accordingly, the court must insist that the time limits are obeyed, unless there is a good and exceptional reason for their not being so.”

11. In that particular case the court did not extent time and, likewise, in this particular case, on that particular ground we also do not extent time. But having said that, this is a case of considerable concern and gravity, so far as the applicant himself is concerned, and it may well be that he himself may feel a sense of grievance if matters are dealt with by what may appear to be a technicality. Accordingly, we have looked at the merits of the matter and propose to make some observations about those merits.

12. The Court has carefully considered the circumstances which arose in both of the instances about which complain was made. In relation to the first matter, during the evidence of AA, the learned judge himself elicited, from a question, from AA that at that stage he was aware of the existence, of course, of a superintendent, P. The learned judge’s intervention followed remarks by the witness that he had said, that is the witness, “If the highest person you can go to is doing the same thing then the whole system is corrupt”.

13. The learned judge sought to assist in relation to that matter by eliciting, as he did, that the superintendent of the institution had in fact been charged with various offences of abusing children. The witness indicated that he knew that and the learned judge, after counsel protested in terms we will mention in a moment, indicated that the purpose of his questioning the witness was to ascertain, as he did, that at the material time the witness was wholly unaware of any suggestion that P had been involved in any abuse and so it could be said, therefore, that there was nothing in the mind of the complainant that would have prevented him making a complaint to P if he had wished to do so.

14. That was, in fact, an account of the matter and an explanation which was more favourable than unfavourable to the defence. However, learned counsel submitted to the learned judge that this intervention by the judge had placed the jury in an impossible position with regard to Mr Starling and described it as a “crucial blow” to the defence which made it quite impossible for Mr Starling to have a fair trial with that information before the jury.

15. We have considered that submission and the response of the learned judge to which we have already referred. The learned judge rightly rejected those contentions on behalf of the applicant and gave the explanation to which we have already referred which put the matter, in our view, clearly and properly in context. We do not consider that there is anything in that complaint or that potential ground of appeal.

16. So far as the second complaint is concerned this related to the witness BB. At a point during the course, as understood, of cross-examination by counsel on behalf of the applicant, a natural break occurred in the proceedings. At that time the learned judge took advantage of that natural break to enquire of the witness how she felt at the time; this, of course, now being a considerable period beyond the date when the alleged incidents had taken place. The witness responded that, in fact, she had liked Bill and the learned judge asked:

“Q. What did you feel, if anything, about him doing these things to you? If somebody had come along and you had told them about it, can you try and explain what you felt about it, if anything, or was it just something that was a fact of life?

A. It was a fact of life and, so therefore I didn’t feel very much about it, just basically trying to get through the day.”

17. The witness went on to indicate that she found these matters, in any event, hard to talk about.

18. Counsel protested at that stage and complained that what the learned judge had done by his intervention was to reinstate the witness’s credibility and more than that, effectively by implication, adopted her, that is the witness’s account. The complaint was made that this intervention so undermined the purpose of counsel’s cross-examination that the possible effect of it was to render worthless counsel’s earlier cross-examination. She went on to say that the defence had been so gravely damaged that the matter could not properly be resolved in the applicant’s interest.

19. Counsel for the Crown did not support that contention, but did tend to support the suggestion by counsel that the learned judge’s intervention was not happily timed and should have been more appropriately made at the close of examination-in-chief, cross-examination and re-examination.

20. The learned judge explained the purposes of his intervention in this way (page 10E of the transcript of the exchanges between counsel and the learned judge in the application to discharge the jury) when he said this:

“I think that question needed to be asked, because I think there is a danger in a case of this kind that matters take a rather unrealistic turn, and I think it is necessary to ask witnesses—I have considered asking previous witnesses, but the occasion did not arise—I think it is awfully important for the jury actually to understand what the witnesses themselves thought and felt about these things, if they happened, at the time that they did happen, because that is an essential matter for the jury to consider when they are addressing their minds to the question why these witnesses did not complain at the time and, at whatever stage in the trial it has arisen, it is something that has to be grappled with.”

21. That was, again, a wholly explicable account by the learned judge of the reasons for his intervention and the reasons why, in due course, that was not a matter that could be legitimately complained of and the learned judge did reject counsel’s application at that time.

22. We consider, in all the circumstances, that he was right to do so. It may be said that it may have been better left to the end of the witnesses’ evidence, but if that had been the course taken by the learned judge that would have deprived counsel for the applicant of the opportunity to deal with those matters later in her cross-examination in any event. That ground also, we would not have acceded to in the draft grounds of appeal.

23. In refusing an extension of time and leave to appeal against conviction the learned single judge observed:

“The very substantial delay in applying for leave to appeal was the result of serious professional shortcomings by Counsel. Even if time for application for leave to appeal had been extended, leave would not have been granted. It is not arguable that on the grounds relied upon your conviction is unsafe or that the trial was unfair.”

24. With those comments this Court agrees and the application for extension of time and, in any event, what would thereafter have been leave to appeal against conviction in this case is dismissed.

Index of Newspaper and Journal articles on this blog [1]

Index of Court Appeals on this blog [2]

Please note that victims of abuse may be triggered by reading this information. These links are generally UK based.

  • The Sanctuary for the Abused [A] has advice on how to prevent triggers.
  • National Association for People Abused in Childhood [B] has a freephone helpline and has links to local support groups.
  • Other useful sites are One in Four [C]
  • and Havoca [D].
  • Useful post on Triggers [E]  from SurvivorsJustice [F] blog.
  • Jim Hoppers pages on Mindfulness [G]  and Meditation [H] may be useful.
  • Hwaairfan blog An Indigenous Australian Approach to Healing Trauma  [J]
  • Survivors UK for victims and survivors of male rape or the sexual abuse of men [K]
  • Voicing CSA group [L] helps arrange survivors meetings in your area
  • A Prescription for me blog Various emotional support links [M]
  • ShatterBoys -“Male Survivors Of Childhood Sexual Abuse Inspiring change, Through Shared Experience Whilst Building Connections…Together We Can Heal” [N]


[1] Index of Newspaper and Journal articles on this blog https://cathyfox.wordpress.com/2015/05/23/newspaper-stories-index-timeline/

[2] Index of Court Appeals EWCA on this blog https://cathyfox.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/a-timeline-of-court-and-ewca-documentation-on-cathy-fox-blog/

[3] 2016 April 13 Cathy Fox Blog St Leonards Childrens Home, Hornchurch, Essex Child Abuse https://cathyfox.wordpress.com/2016/04/13/st-leonards-childrens-home/

[A] Sanctuary for the Abused http://abusesanctuary.blogspot.co.uk/2006/07/for-survivors-coping-with-triggers-if.html

About cathy fox blog on Child Abuse

the truth will out, the truth will shout, the truth will set us free...
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3 Responses to William John Starling 2002 Feb 26 Appeal Court – St Leonards

  1. Pingback: An Index and Timeline of Court & Court of Appeal Documents on Cathy Fox Blog | cathy fox blog

  2. Reblogged this on Buried News and commented:
    Once upon a time I believed that English Justice was the best in the world, and as once upon a time was the opening line to fairy stories, maybe it should be included in the front of Law Books.

  3. Pingback: Tower Hamlets – Working Document showing how to get to a full Timeline | cathy fox blog on child abuse

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