St Anne’s resident, William Bisset, aged 84, of Rossendale Road, has today been jailed for a total of six-and-a-half years and ordered to sign the sex offenders register for life. The pensioner was found guilty after a trial at Preston Crown Court of seventeen counts of indecent assault of boys under the age of 14.

Bissett used his position of trust as a Boys’ Brigade leader at the Church Road Methodist Church group to sexually abuse young boys.  During the trial, the court heard that Bissett preyed upon victims over an eleven year period, setting up opportunities to take them to the side room of the church under the pretence of smartening them up. Additionally, during weekend trips with the Boy’s Brigade, he also indecently assaulted other boys.

In Bissett’s defence, his barrister Christopher Hudson said thirty people had submitted glowing references about the defendant, including six present or former ministers. However, Judge Robert Altham said Bissett had not shown a shred of remorse for what he had done to the five complainants who came to court.  Judge Robert Altham continued: ‘The five complainants showed tremendous dignity. The role of each of the victims in this case has been crucial.”

Indeed one of Bissett’s targets chose to read his witness statement in person to the court. He began by thanking the police and Crown Prosecution Service for their ‘professionalism and sensitivity’.  He said: “As a young boy I joined the Boys’ Brigade with innocence and a sense of excitement. Bissett took full advantage of my vulnerability and had a significant effect on my formative mind.’ He felt guilty about not coming forward sooner ‘but came to realise the guilt is not mine to own’. He told the court that the defendant had ‘manipulated many people over many years’ and added that Bissett had ‘many opportunities to admit his deeds and get help but hasn’t done so’.

Following the sentencing, David Groombridge, from Lancashire Police’s Operation Fervent, which investigates historical abuse cases, said: ‘William Bissett is a predatory sex offender who subjected his victims to prolonged periods of abuse. He preyed on the boys, carrying out a series of indecent assaults. In so doing he breached his position of trust in the worst way imaginable. I am pleased he has been brought to justice and will now be in prison for a long time. If anyone has been the victim of a sexual offence, I would urge them to come forward and report it to us. We take all reports seriously and ensure that victims are treated sensitively and professionally at all times.’

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