A former chair of Bursledon Parish Council, who opposed the introduction of child safe-guarding measures at the village community centre, has been sentenced to a total of 17 years behind bars after he pleaded guilty to historic charges of rape and multiple charges involving indecent assaults on children.
Appearing at Southampton Crown Court, Mark McCormick, 49, of Griffon Close, Bursledon, was convicted on 14 separate charges that included raping a 16-year-old girl, multiple incidents of indecent assault on children, a charge of sexual assault on a man and one count of taking indecent photographs of a child. Seven other similar charges have been left on file.
Today people in Bursledon will be asking how it was possible for someone who had been subject to a police investigation into allegations of serious sexual assaults against children could rise to a position of trust within the community that gave him access to the both the local Children’s Library and school that was attended by several of his young victims.
The court heard how between 1999 and 2003, McCormick, while working as a part-time mobile Disc Jockey groomed vulnerable young teenagers who were interested in music by employing them as ‘roadies’ after gaining the trust of their parents before forcing them to submit to sexual activity with him.
Prosecutor Jenny Russell described McCormick as “a man attractive to young people interested in music” who was a “a calculating sexual predator who used young people for his own gratification.”
Ms Russell told the court how McCormick – whose DJ publicity claimed he could make parties “go with a swing” – often held parties at his house where the youngsters would consume alcohol and where, according to one victim, McCormick would announce “does anyone want fun?” before assaulting them. Another victim recalled falling asleep and waking up to see McCormick naked except for a condom. He told one 14-year-old lad after he had masturbated him that “what they were doing was normal. Everybody does it.”
On other occasions the DJ drove his victims, mostly boys aged 14 – 16, to known ‘dogging’ spots at Netley and Hamble to perform sex acts on them. One boy was driven by McCormick to Southampton Common where he was forced to have oral sex with strangers. He also pestered the boy for anal sex. When the boy threatened to go to the police McCormick replied “Who are they going to believe? Me, or you, a stupid little kid?”
In Court Ms Russell read out personal impact statements from his victims. A woman, who had been raped by McCormick when she was 16 sobbed quietly while she listened as Russell read out her words:
“When I was younger I did not see what had happened to me as rape. I made myself believe he had my best interests at heart. He made me feel safe and was a cool person. All these years later I have to bolt my door at night and I have flashbacks and panic attacks. I am on medication to help me cope. This has affected my life which feels like a filthy barrel full of bad memories.
He is a leech to vulnerable children and he should not be working in a community centre or in a council.”
Several victims said their experiences at the hands of the dirty DJ had left them with flashbacks and health and relationship problems. One man’s statement described how his parents had not believed him until McCormick had pleaded guilty. He described McCormick as a “very clever man who manipulated me. I was his helpless puppet and he was a sick-minded puppeteer.”
An adult who had been befriended by McCormick and had been assaulted by him in 2006 said in his statement that he had reported the single incident to the police but they had not pursued it.
“It was wrong for the police to take no further action. What happened to me might seem like a minor thing but as a result I cannot bear being touched by another man, not even my Dad.”
McCormick who was first elected to Bursledon Parish Council in 2011 and was twice elected as its Chair had previously been investigated by police in 2002 but no action was taken as his young victims had been too sacred to face court. But in 2017, following concerns raised with the Chief Constable by Eastleigh’s MP Mims Davies, a cold case review of the allegations against the Councillor resulted in fresh disclosures that led to the resignation of McCormick from the council and his subsequent arrest.
As Chair of the Parish Council McCormick had been at the centre of a bitter fight between the council and Bursledon and District Community Association (BDCA) – an organisation with charity status responsible for the management of the local community centre which was home to the library and Parish Council offices.
In 2014 the BDCA Chair, John Missellbrook, advised the Parish Council that the centre’s insurers required all employees, volunteers and council members involved in the running of the centre library to undergo DBS checks – these are background checks made against police records to ensure that people are safe around children – but members of the parish council, led by McCormick, refused to comply on the grounds that there were no regulatory or legal requirements to do so.
The ensuing dispute resulted in resignations, un-resignations, evictions, lock outs, arbitration and legal action costing council taxpayers thousands of pounds. Supporters of the Parish Council started a petition calling for Missellbrook to be removed over his insistence on DBS checks but he responded by telling the petitioners: “We make no apology for the action taken to ensure the protection of children in Bursledon.”
Missellbrook and fellow trustee Mims Davies suddenly found themselves removed from the BDCA board of trustees and locked out of the BDCA webpage on the Charity Commission website with no prior warning or notification from the Charity Commission, but not before the MP had contacted the police over her concerns for the safety of children at the centre.
During the same period, while McCormick was Chair of Bursledon Parish Council and active in opposing the introduction of DBS background checks, evidence produced in court proved that he had been active on Grindr “showing a clear interest in meeting young people” and advertising his availability for playing “daddy and son roles.” It is likely that he would have failed DBS background checks given the earlier police investigation into his inappropriate relationships with young people.
When interviewed by police in 2017, McCormick still denied any wrongdoing. He denied that he had held sex parties and said he had never had sex with someone under the age of 18. He told police, “I am a caring person, a father figure who has cared too much.”
He suggested that his young ‘roadies’ had been having sex with each other and that he had never been alone with the rape victim whom he claimed was lying on behalf of a friend who bore him a grudge – but he changed his plea to guilty shortly before the trial, set to run for four weeks, began.
In mitigation Nicholas Cotter said that as a youngster McCormick had struggled at school and had experienced a difficult home life. In the late 90s and early 2000s he had been experimenting with his sexuality. He said that McCormick had expressed “profound remorse” and had pleaded guilty in order to spare his victims further suffering.
During the trial a bespectacled McCormick, dressed in a dark blue suit, followed proceedings through a hearing loop, staring directly ahead impassively, avoiding the gaze of his victims sat in court.
He remained seated and expressionless as Judge Nicholas Rowland sentenced him to a total of 17 years’ imprisonment while telling him:
“You should have been brought to account earlier. Your victims were vulnerable and you used that to control and manipulate them.”