Former Lowestoft shopkeeper guilty of indecent assaults on boys

A FORMER Lowestoft shopkeeper has been warned he faces a jail sentence after being convicted of indecently assaulting five teenage boys.

A jury at Ipswich Crown Court took nine hours to find Anthony Francis, who owned two shops in Lowestoft, guilty of eight offences of indecent assault and two of sexual activity with a child after a trial lasting several weeks.

Although six of the jury's verdicts on the indecent assault charges were unanimous one of the indecent assault verdicts was by a 10-2 majority and the other was by an 11-1 majority.

Francis was convicted of both the offences of sexual activity with a child by majority verdicts of 11-1.

Francis, 52, of Yarmouth Road, Norwich, had denied all the charges and claimed his victims had colluded against him.

Judge David Goodin adjourned sentence on Francis until the middle of January for a pre-sentence report.

He remanded Francis in custody and warned him to expect a prison sentence. He also ordered him to sign the Sex Offenders' Register.

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He told Francis he had abused his position of trust as a shopkeeper over many years and although the offences were not the most serious of their kind they were still serious.

He said a pre-sentence report prepared by a probation officer would address whether or not Francis posed a risk by the commission of further offences in the future.

'I don't necessarily expect the reporting officer to form the view that you do present such a danger but it would be wholly wrong to leave it unexplored,' said the judge.

During the trial the court heard that Francis had owned a shop in Maidstone Road, Lowestoft, between 1990-1995 before moving to premises in Norwich Road, Lowestoft, in 1995.

Witnesses told the court he had indecently assaulted them in a basement office or in his private accommodation and had given them money afterwards to buy their silence. The offences happened between 1992 and 2005.

After Francis's conviction the court heard that he had five previous convictions between 1977 and 1988 for arson, theft, handling stolen goods, burglary and making off without paying for petrol. He had received a range of sentences including fines and a period of Borstal training.

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