Marie Black gets life term for child abuse

Marie Black, Michael Rodgers, Jason Adams Image copyright Norfolk Police
Image caption Marie Black, Michael Rogers and Jason Adams preyed on children aged under 13

A woman at the centre of a "gruesome" child sex abuse ring which passed children round "like toys" has been given a life sentence.

Marie Black, 34, of Norwich, was convicted at Norwich Crown Court of 23 charges, including rape and inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

Victims were abused at parties and may have been offered in raffles.

"The case is the most harrowing it has been my misfortune to try," said Judge Nicholas Coleman.

"I and the jurors had to listen to the truly gruesome detail of what took place.

"Your conduct towards these children can only be described as utterly depraved - the children were subjected to sexual abuse of the worst kind.

"They were simply passed around like toys," he said.

Protect the public

The charges related to five young children over a 10-year period.

Michael Rogers, 46, from Romford, north east London, was found guilty of 14 counts, including cruelty, rape and inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

Jason Adams, 44, from Norwich, was convicted of 13 similar counts.

Both were sentenced to 24 years.

Analysis: Julian Sturdy, BBC East

The severity of the sentence means Marie Black has become one of the UK's most notorious paedophiles.

Yet still she cries her innocence. She sobbed quietly and occasionally shook her head as her sentence was read out.

Judge Nicholas Coleman said he had "had enough" of legal argument from her barrister and went at it both barrels.

For Marie Black life inside will be tough. Already she has had to move prisons several times.

The men were also made subject to sexual harm prevention orders, which allows the court to impose restrictions deemed necessary to protect the public.

All three had denied the charges against them, with Black accused of 26 counts and found guilty of 23.

Seven others stood trial, six of whom were cleared of all charges.

'Corrupted woman'

Judge Coleman said: "You, Marie Black, were the constant factor in all of these crimes.

"The offences included adults conspiring to rape children at so-called sex parties.

"You used them for your own, and for others', sexual gratification."

Black was told she could only be considered for parole after 12 years.

Image copyright Norfolk Police
Image caption Carol Stadler was found guilty of assault causing actual bodily harm

He said there was evidence the children were taken to other parts of the country where they were raffled for abuse by others.

Black did not give evidence and was described by her barrister Sarah Elliott QC as "clearly a vulnerable, corrupted woman".

"The impetus for abusing the children comes from Adams and Rogers," she said.

"She was vilified throughout the trial and was blamed by everybody to exculpate themselves."

However, barristers representing Adams and Rogers rejected the notion that they had manipulated her.

'Naive man'

Isabella Forshall QC, for Adams, said he had no previous convictions for sexual offences and Black was "the common denominator between all the offences."

Ann Cotcher QC said Rogers was a "naive" man who had sought to help Black and was not the instigator of sexual and physical abuse.

Co-defendant Carol Stadler, 59, from Norwich, was found guilty of assault causing actual bodily harm, but cleared of nine other charges including serious sexual assaults.

She is due to be sentenced.

Six others - Anthony Stadler, 63, Nicola Collins, 36, Andrew Collins, 52, Judith Fuller, 31, Denise Barnes, 43, and Kathleen Adams, 85, all from Norwich - stood trial but were cleared of all counts.