'Tyrant' father 'abused children', Burnley court is told

A father of 14 was a "tyrant" who raped his stepdaughter, fathering four children with her, a Lancashire court heard.

The 58-year-old man is accused of 42 offences including rape, child cruelty, false imprisonment, indecent assault and actual bodily harm.

He has been declared unfit to plead due to his "deteriorating intellectual capacity", Burnley Crown Court heard.

The judge told the jury they must decide whether he committed the acts.

Prosecutors described how the man controlled his children and his partners with verbal, physical and, in one case, sexual abuse for more than 20 years.

The jury heard the man, who did not appear in court, began to sexually abuse his stepdaughter when she was 15.

Abuse 'unchecked'

Louise Whaites, prosecuting, said after the birth of her second child a midwife was so concerned the family was concealing something she wrote to social services.

"Unfortunately it seems there was no official intervention at that stage by the authorities," said Miss Whaites.

The prosecutor said this meant the man's abuse was allowed to go on "unchecked" until she began to see it as part of normal life.

Miss Whaites said: "He's someone who treated a number of his children and partners in the most appalling of ways, physically abusing them and sexually abusing his stepdaughter.

"He totally dominated many members of his family and they were expected to do whatever it was he asked of them."

The court heard the family, which included the man's wife and girlfriend, moved around but lived for periods in Lancashire and in West Yorkshire.

Son 'terrified'

The jury heard he would sometimes imprison some of the children, including his stepdaughter.

Miss Whaites said one of his sons was sometimes punished by being locked in a cellar or outbuilding overnight with minimal clothes.

She said: "(He) remembers being terrified and would cry out to be released from the cellar."

On another occasion, after the same boy damaged a car window, the defendant allegedly drove him some distance from the family home at night and left him to walk home.

The prosecutor said the man was arrested after his stepdaughter called police to the house when he made her strip and began cutting up her clothes with a kitchen knife.

Officers found many of the younger children dirty and infested with head lice.

Miss Whaites described one little girl as having teeth which were just "blunt stumps".

The hearing was adjourned until Friday.

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