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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Former Castle Howard estate manager sexually abused girl at stately home

The younger brother to the heir of Castle Howard sexually abused a girl aged six at the stately home, it can now be reported following a trial of facts.

A jury concluded that Simon Howard, 65, carried out the attack on the young girl in 1984 at a gatehouse of the estate, which is used as a backdrop for films and TV programmes such as Brideshead Revisited and Bridgerton.

The father-of-two denied the charge, but was declared unfit to stand trial.

It came after Howard suffered a fall which led to a brain hemorrhage and was put into a medically-induced coma. He spent months at a neurological rehabilitation centre where he contracted Covid-19. He was twice given only hours to live.

The resultant brain damage meant he was unable to face a criminal trial, but a trial of the facts was held before a jury at York Crown Court last month.

After a six-day hearing in which his victim gave harrowing evidence, jurors found that Howard did commit the offences.

A further charge that he attempted to rape a woman in the early 2000s at Castle Howard was allowed to lie on file.

It was due to go to trial next year, but the prosecution in the case did not feel pursuing it would be in the public interest.

The details of his crime can now be reported after a court reporting restriction was lifted by Judge Sean Morris, the Recorder of York.

Howard was given an absolute discharge after the jury found that he committed indecent assault and incited a child to commit an indecent act.

The jury was told that Howard was living in the gatehouse of Castle Howard, between York and Malton, when he committed the offences.

The girl, who was six or seven at the time, told her mother, who confronted Howard, but the defendant denied that any sexual touching took place.

The complainant reported the offences to the police in 2018 and Howard was interviewed and later charged.

The jury said it was satisfied that Howard, 65, committed both the acts.

Delay is prosecution is ‘unacceptable’

Judge Sean Morris, the Recorder of York, said: “This defendant falls to be sentenced following a finding of fact case, which was conducted at York Crown Court.

“The defendant, of course, could not give evidence about the allegations and the jury found that he did the acts alleged against him, and that was the indecent assault against a little girl, aged six or seven, at Castle Howard back in 1984.”

The judge said a delay in prosecuting Howard was “unacceptable” and he may have been able to stand trial if he had been charged earlier.

He said: “It is to be regretted that there was undue considerable delay in the processing of the prosecution case.

“Had this case proceeded with proper expedition it may well have been that the defendant could have stood his trial and given evidence.”

He added: “It was between his interview with the police and the day of the fact-finding that the defendant had a fall, from which he suffered brain damage.”

The judge said the only sentencing option available to him was one of absolute discharge.

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