Former Lancaster choirmaster sentenced for abusing children

John Gilbert Blacktop.
John Gilbert Blacktop.

A former choirmaster at Christ Church in Lancaster who evaded the police has been sentenced to 21 years in prison for sexually abusing children over 20 years.

John Gilbert Blacktop, 81, of Marine Road West, Morecambe was convicted of 33 counts of indecent assault, contrary to section 14 (1) of the Sexual Offences Act 1956, one count of rape, contrary to section 1 (1) of the Sexual Offences Act 1956 and one count of attempted rape, contrary to section 1 (1) of the Sexual Offences Act 1956.

The convictions followed a trial at Bradford Crown Court where he was also cleared of one count of indecent assault.

The abuse was committed in Lancaster and Stockton on Tees in Cleveland during the 1960s and 1970s and involved five girls aged between five and 14 years at the time.

Blacktop was formerly a choirmaster and church organist at Christ Church, Wyresdale Road in Lancaster, where some of the abuse occurred, between 1974 and 1977.

He was arrested and charged in 2016 after a cold case review by Lancashire Police’s Operation Fervent team, a unit set in January 2015 to investigate the historical sexual abuse of children.

Blacktop was sentenced for the offences in his absence after failing to attend court on Thursday March 30. As a result, a crown court warrant was issued for his arrest.

He went on the run for nine days and was thought to have made his way to the Fylde Coast area after reported sightings in Blackpool and Cleveleys.

He eventually handed himself on Saturday, April 8 at Blackpool Police Station.

As a result of failing to surrender to court bail and being at large, he was given a further six months on top of his original sentence to run concurrently.

Andy Woodmass, of the Operation Fervent Team, said: “John Blacktop is a predatory sex offender who preyed on young girls to satisfy his own depraved sexual desires. What is all the more sinister is how he targeted these youngsters and groomed them before carrying out his abuse, which in some cases was committed over a number of years.

“I would like to thank the jury for their careful consideration of this case, as well as the Crown Prosecution Service and Counsel. I would like to give special mention to the victims who had the strength to come forward and report what had happened to them. They have behaved with dignity throughout this investigation and without their support this prosecution simply would not have been possible.

“Lancashire Constabulary remains committed to investigating allegations of this nature, no matter how historic, and no matter what the role, position and status of the alleged offender, and we would encourage anyone who has been a victim of a sexual offence to come forward safe in the knowledge that they will be treated sensitively and professionally.”