A MAN has been jailed for 30 years at York Crown Court for the horrific abuse of children.

Graham Leslie Howard, 47, formerly of York, was locked up today (August 23) after being found guilty of 18 charges including 11 counts of the rape of a child, two of indecency with a child, three indecent assaults, and two of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual behaviour.

He also faced trial for three offences of cruelty to a child but pleaded guilty to those charges just before the start of his trial.

Howard, most recently of Croft Avenue, Knottingley, who previously lived in York, Scarborough and Darlington, subjected the children to "unspeakable, sickening abuse, both sexual and physical", according to North Yorkshire Police.

Following his imprisonment, investigating officer, Detective Constable Rosie Rogers, of Scarborough CID, said: “This is one of the worst cases of child abuse I have ever dealt with. No child should have to go through the terror and pain that they suffered at his hands.

“Although the sentence reflects the seriousness of his horrific crimes, nothing can take away the trauma he has inflicted on those children and the impact on the rest of their lives.

“They have been incredibly brave in coming forward to re-live their ordeals and in doing so have ensured that a dangerous man is now behind bars where he cannot harm any more children. I hope the result gives them some form of closure on a horrendous time in their lives.

“Protecting children is everyone’s responsibility and I urge anyone who is aware of any child being abused that they step forward and report it. Don’t turn a blind eye and think it’s none of your business, it is, please tell us.”

A spokesperson for North Yorkshire Police urged anyone who has been the victim of sexual abuse, whether it is happening now or in the past, to contact the force.

The spokesperson added: "Even if it is not possible to put an offender before the courts, it’s important that you are offered the support and advice that is available. Your information could also help to protect other victims and help the police form a wider picture of offending.

"We appreciate that telling the police what has happened takes courage. It is not easy reliving such distressing situations. We understand this and have specially trained officers who will guide you through the process as well as signposting you to other agencies who can help you.

"Child sexual abuse and exploitation is a foremost priority for all police forces and all reports will be fully investigated. Please do not suffer alone, if you have been abused, please report it."

An NSPCC spokesman said: “The long jail term handed to Howard reflects the truly sickening abuse he inflicted on his young victims, which will leave an indelible mark on their lives.

“Their bravery has helped bring to justice a highly dangerous and predatory abuser and it is vital they now receive all available support to recover.

“Child sexual abuse ruins lives. The NSPCC visits hundreds of primary schools every year to teach children how to stay safe from abuse and empowering them to speak out if they ever experience it.”

• To report a sexual crime to the police, call 101

• If you are in immediate danger, always call 999

• If you prefer not to go direct to the police and you are not in immediate danger, you can contact a sexual assault referral centre (SARC) in your area. Bridge House, North Yorkshire’s SARC can be contacted on 01904 669339.

• Childline 24-hour helpline 0800 1111 • NSPCC’s online safety helpline on 0800 800 5002

• If you are worried about a child, call the NSPCC’s helpline: 0800 800 5000