Former Castle Howard manager Simon Howard sexually abused a young girl on his famous family property – but he will not receive a prison sentence after a brain injury meant he could not stand trial.
The aristocrat, 65, was in his 20s when he abused the girl in the gatehouse of the estate in 1984.
A jury in York Crown Court found he committed indecent assault and incited a child to commit an indecent act.
But Howard, now from Wellham Road, Norton, Malton, was found unfit to stand trial for a brain injury he sustained in a fall after his arrest.
Prosecutor Michael Smith said the young victim – who at the time described Howard as a “monster” – was staying in the famous state home in 1984 when she was sexually assaulted by Howard, who also asked her to perform a sexual act on him. .
Howard had run the family estate – used as a backdrop for movies and TV shows like Brideshead Revisited and Bridgerton – for about 30 years and originally lived in the Gatehouse before moving into the main house shortly after the attack.
The girl, who was six or seven at the time, told her mother, who confronted Howard, but the defendant denied that any sexual contact took place.
Lived with the abuse
The victim first went to the police in early 2018, more than 30 years after the offenses took place.
Smith said this may have been due to Howard’s status as an “important person”.
Howard was brought in for questioning, but denied the offenses and was “adamant” that nothing sexual had happened.
He did not say the girl lied, but claimed she had “misunderstood” the situation or had “confused this event with other events in her life”.
He claimed he and the child had had a “discussion”, but there was “nothing scary”.
Mr. Smith told jurors that Howard had waved the girl at him before assaulting her indecently. He then asked her to kiss an intimate part of his body.
“She has been living with this abuse (ever since),” said Mr. Smith.
“She said there were times when she was considering reporting cases to the police … (but) she did not do so until early 2018.”
Memories of the sexual assault had “permeated her life” for over 30 years.
Robbed her childhood
Smith said the victim, now a middle-aged mother, had told her husband about the incident before going to police.
The victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said in a statement how Howard’s attack had robbed her of her childhood innocence and profoundly affected her in adulthood.
“It’s definitely part of who I am (now),” she added.
“I do not think anyone needs to tell how or why it is wrong for a grown man to sexually abuse a (very young) girl.
“For a long time, I pushed my memory of what happened 38 years ago as far out of my mind as possible.”
She said those memories had been revived when her own children reached the age where she was sexually abused.
“The childhood monster came rushing back to the surface,” she said.
“I began to reflect more on what had happened, and on the shame and fear and dirt that I felt as a child afterwards. It was my innocence and confidence that was most damaged.
“When I look back, I can see how vulnerable I was, in part because of chaotic family relationships.”
She said Howard had used his position as a powerful aristocrat to exploit her and sexually abuse her.
Smith said she felt “anger and indignation” over the “random way in which (Howard) was able to take something so valuable from her”.
After being asked by officers about the offenses, Howard fell, leaving him permanently brain damaged.
Psychiatrists for both the prosecution, the defense and the court confirmed that the injury was irreparable and that Howard was unfit to stand trial. As such, he was neither in court for his trial nor judgment.
Reporting restrictions had prevented media coverage of the trial because Howard had to face another trial in absentia after being accused of attempting to rape and indecently assault a woman at Castle Howard between June 2003 and February 2004.
But today (Tuesday, November 16), Judge Sean Morris, Recorder of York, lifted all reporting restrictions after prosecutors said it would not be in the public interest to proceed with the second set of allegations.
The alleged victim in that case had agreed to this, and the allegations, including two of attempted rape, were allowed to lie in the case.
Howard, however, was indicted for five years for sex offenders, which is automatic for such offenses.
Judge Sean Morris, Recorder of York, said: “This defendant is to be tried after a finding case which was brought before York Crown Court.
“Of course, the defendant could not testify about the allegations, and the jury found that he did the acts alleged against him, and that was the indecent assault on a six- or seven-year-old little girl at Castle Howard back in 1984. ”
The judge said a delay in Howard’s prosecution was “unacceptable” and he could have been able to stand trial if he had been charged earlier.
He said: “It is regrettable that there was an unnecessarily significant delay in the processing of the prosecution’s case.
“If this case had proceeded with a proper expedition, it could very well have been that the defendant could have stood his trial and testified.”
He added: “It was between his conversation with the police and the day of the investigation that the accused fell, from which he suffered brain damage.”
The judge said the only sentencing option available to him was absolute acquittal.