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Woman indecently assaulted as a child urges other victims of sexual abuse to talk

A photo of Liz Roberts
Liz Roberts

A woman who was sexually assaulted in the 1970s has waived her right to anonymity in the hope of encouraging other victims of abuse to report offences to police.

Liz Roberts, of West Somerset, was abused by Andrew Herbert in the early 1970s.

She confided in a few friends during the past 50 years but only reported what he did to her as an eight-year-old girl to police in 2020.

Her case was subsequently investigated by a specialist officer who later charged him with two counts of rape and four counts of indecent assault.

The 67-year-old, of Goodrich, Herefordshire, was also charged with six counts of indecent assault against a second woman who was of a similar age to Liz at the time.

Herbert pleaded guilty to all 10 counts of indecent assault and stood trial for the two counts of rape. Last month, a jury at Bristol Crown Court acquitted him of one count and failed to reach a verdict on the other.

Today (Friday 4 November), he was sentenced at the same court after the Crown Prosecution Service, decided that retrying him for the second rape charge was not in the in the interest of either the public or the victims.

Herbert was made subject of a two-year community order and given indefinite restraining orders preventing contact with either woman. He also received an 18-month curfew, must carry out 225 hours’ community service and was ordered to pay compensation to both victims. He must also report as a sex offender for five years.

After the trial, Liz decided to waive her legal right to lifetime anonymity as a victim of a sexual offence.

She said: “I’ve chosen to identify myself as someone who has survived being sexually assaulted in the hope it gives confidence to other survivors, that if they tell the police their story, they will investigate and justice can be achieved.

“From the moment I reported Andrew, I have been fully supported through the investigation and right through to the court process. This support hasn’t just been from the police but also from Safe Link, who allocated an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) to me and charities such as SARSAS (Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Assault Support) which provided free essential counselling support. They have held my hand every step of the way both physically and metaphorically and have done everything they can to ease the process for me.

“I waited 50 years to tell my story as I didn’t think anyone would care about what happened. That clearly isn’t true and I only wish I’d reported it sooner. There have of course been times when it has brought the trauma of what he did back, and I still have a long way to go in my recovery journey, but I have no regrets.

“I’d urge anyone who has been abused to talk to someone. There is support out there and people will help whether you want offences investigated or not.

“Justice comes in many forms. Feeling the care and support of everyone around me means that I can now hold my head high – that is the best kind of justice.”

Investigating officer PC Becky Norton said: “Andrew Herbert’s actions have had a lifelong impact on both his victims.

“He claimed to have experienced a tsunami of shame but that is absolutely nothing compared to what they have gone through, for they have spent the past five decades living with the trauma he inflicted on them.

“They both deserve immense credit for standing up to him in court and telling the judge exactly how deeply his abuse has affected them.”

Detective Superintendent Lisa Simpson, lead for Rape and Serious Sexual Assault, said: “What Liz Roberts is doing now, in waiving her anonymity, is nothing short of remarkable.

“Whatever the context of the crime, we are absolutely committed to working with the victim to achieve the outcome that’s best for them. This might mean investigating but it also might just mean safeguarding them and providing them with access to support.

“Together, with our partners in the Crown Prosecution Service, we’re working hard to hold offenders to account for the vile offences they have committed and, with the help of third sector partners such as SafeLink, The Bridge and SARSAS to making sure they are ok and helping them recover from the trauma they’ve endured.”

Ian Dawes, Senior Crown Prosecutor for CPS South West, said: “The conviction of Andrew Herbert is the result of successful joined-up working from multiple agencies across the criminal justice system. Through this partnership approach we are transforming the way that the CPS and police handle rape and sexual assault cases, and are working together to ensure that victims are supported throughout the prosecution process.

“I would like to commend the victim in this case for coming forward and supporting the prosecution. I am pleased to hear that she has spoken positively about the support she received during the investigation and prosecution, and I hope that this will encourage other victims of sexual offences to feel confident in reporting what happened to them, no matter how much time has passed since an offence took place.

“CPS South West is working alongside Avon & Somerset Police on an ambitious project called Operation Soteria which is testing new ways to improve how the CPS and police handle rape investigations and prosecutions. Its approach is centred on the conduct of the suspect as opposed to the victim, with a strong focus on closer joint working between police and prosecution teams to drive up the number of successful prosecutions and deliver justice for victims. We are already beginning to see the results of this work on cases like this one.”

It’s never too late to report an offence. If you’ve been a victim of sexual abuse, recent or non-recent, you don’t even have to speak to the police. You can self-refer to The Bridge, a Sexual Assault Referral Centre available 24/7 365 days a year. Visit their website at www.thebridgecanhelp.org.uk or call 0117 342 6999.

For details of charities and organisations who are experts in supporting victims visit www.thisisnotanexcuse.org.