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21 October 2016, 14:08 | Updated: 21 October 2016, 16:11
A former Birmingham police officer has been found guilty of 40 sex offences against children as young as 8, despite two previous failed investigations into his abuse.
Retired West Midlands Police sergeant Allan Richards twice used his trusted position to lure youngsters to a police station and attacked his first victim when he was running a football team as a teenage Scout leader in the 1970s.
Richards, 54, formerly of Thaxted Road, Tile Cross, Birmingham, was convicted at Birmingham Crown Court on Friday of carrying out nine indecent assaults against six boys aged between 11 and 15 at camps, swimming baths and other locations, between 1982 and 2003.
For the first time it can now also be reported that Richards had already been found guilty earlier this year of a further 31 sex offences against other boys, including two rapes, going back as far as the 1970s.
In all, Richards' prolific history of what the police called his "disgusting crimes'' involved 17 victims.
He had denied all the charges at both trials but was condemned by evidence gleaned from his own coded diaries and a computer hard drive containing a list of male names in which he had a sexual interest.
It also emerged that the 54-year-old had avoided prosecution in the past, after being questioned when allegations first surfaced in 2000 and then 2004.
A file was passed to the Crown Prosecution Service at the time but it was felt there was not enough evidence to convict, according to the police.
The force said it "removed him from public contact'' in 2004, but he remained with the force until he retired in 2011.
He was also removed from his post with the Scouts.
Richards was told he would not be prosecuted in January 2005.
It was only in 2014 when another victim came forward that a fresh investigation was launched, resulting in Richards' multiple convictions.
The force referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) in May 2015 over its handling of the earlier investigations.
Police Apologise To Victims
Speaking after the verdicts, Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Alex Murray said West Midlands Police had already written to apologise to all of Richards' victims.
He also accepted there may have been "opportunities missed'' to prevent Richards abusing other victims, after the allegations came to light in 2004.
Of Richards' victims, six of them were abused after the police investigation in 2000.
Mr Murray said: "I think if we were able to do a really thorough investigation then there's a chance we could have safeguarded victims in the future.
"That's something the IPCC are looking into.''
An NSPCC spokesman said: “Richards used the authority and respect he commanded from parents and children to carry out the most appalling campaign of abuse for many years.
“He manipulated those who looked up to him, and took advantage of the access to vulnerable boys that his roles as a police officer and scoutmaster gave him.
“By denying these offences, he forced his victims to endure the ordeal of a crown court trial and relive the horrors of the abuse he inflicted upon them.
“These cases show that abuse victims will be listened to, no matter how long ago it happened or who their abuser was.
“They do not need to suffer alone. They can call the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 or contact the police, while children can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or via www.childline.org.uk .”
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson has promised a public report said: "Allan Richards has let down the public and the force.
"His crimes are the ultimate breach of trust. He exploited his position and the victims he was meant to be protecting at the lowest point of their lives.
"It is extremely worrying that he was able to remain an officer until as recently as 2011, only a year before the introduction of PCCs.
"I have commissioned a public report into the failings of West Midlands Police to ensure nothing like this can ever happen again. West Midlands Police needs to rapidly rebuild public confidence to make sure Richards's vile crimes do not undermine the good work of the vast majority of officers.
"The force has very serious questions to answer and I will make sure the Chief Constable provides the answers the public - and Richards' victims - deserve.
"Whilst the force have unequivocally apologised, West Midlands Police also needs to examine the cultures at the time and re-assure the public that they have made the changes required to prevent the offending of a criminal like Richards taking place now."