A man who was one of the landmark “Bolton Seven” group was found to have groomed, raped and abused young boys more than 20 years ago.

Norman Williams, now 59, of Atherton, abused three boys in the 1990s, raping two of them no less than 11 times a piece and often abusing each in the presence of the other.

Bolton Crown Court heard how he had preyed upon vulnerable victims, giving them alcohol, cigarettes and in one case cannabis.

Prosecutor Simon Blakeborough said: “They were vulnerable children at the time, both coming from difficult backgrounds and somewhat dysfunctional families.

“The defendant exploited their vulnerabilities in order to repeatedly sexually assault both over a period of several years.”

The case was heard at Bolton Crown CourtThe case was heard at Bolton Crown Court (Image: Newsquest)

The court heard how Williams had been one of the “Bolton Seven”, a group of men who had won compensation after their case went all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.

The landmark case centred on consensual sexual activity with a 17-year-old, which was illegal at the time, but helped to prompt a change in the law to equalise the age of consent.

The group had also won an apology from the British government. 

But while Williams was still serving a notification requirement and being monitored by police in the aftermath of the famous case, he began his horrific campaign of abuse.

For a period over several years, Williams raped each of the two boys no fewer than 11 times, often in each other’s presence across two homes in Atherton.

Norman Williams outside courtNorman Williams outside court (Image: Newsquest)

He also forcibly performed sexual acts on them and forced them to do so to him, while he then sexually assaulted a third boy.

Williams’ crimes were finally uncovered many years later when two of his victims came forward and reported him to the police, with the third victim traced as a witness soon after.

He denied his crimes when interviewed by police and continued to do so when brought before Bolton Crown Court for a trial in March this year.

But he was found guilty of three counts of rape and seven of indecent assault against his first victim.

Williams was found guilty of two indecent assaults, two rapes and one actual bodily harm against his second victim and a single count of indecent assault against the third.

Many of the rape charges included “multiple incidents”, meaning he had raped two of the boys at least 22 times between them along with a range of other assaults.

Norman Williams has now been jailedNorman Williams has now been jailed (Image: GMP)

Colin Buckle, defending, said he accepted that “all cases of sexual assault are serious, but some are more serious than others.”

He said: “We know, it is something that has been referred to repeatedly that Mr Williams is part of the Bolton Seven.”

But Mr Buckle argued that his convictions as part of the Bolton Seven case should not be counted against him given that the law had since changed.

He also said that a previous conviction for a wounding offence should not be counted against him, given that he committed it so long ago that “at the time, Mr Williams’ barrister was three.”

Mr Buckle said: “He sits there knowing that what he is about to face is enormous.”

He added: “When he comes out he’ll be an old man, in poor health, he’s already in poor health.”

Mr Buckle said that Williams was already serving his time in prison in isolation “by his own choice because he believes he is in danger and the prison believe that he is.”

This was after other prisoners had “taken an interest in him.”

Judge Jon Close accepted that Williams’ convictions as part of the Bolton Seven would not be counted against him.

But he reminded the court of how “acutely vulnerable” and disadvantaged Williams’ victims had been.

Addressing the defendant directly, he said: “It was against this background that you systematically groomed and targeted two young boys.”

Judge Close said that if the two victims resisted, they were met with threats and violence.

Turning to a statement made by one of the victims, he said: “I see you in my head, you’re there in the dark.”

Judge Close jailed Williams for 25 years, with an extended licence period of five years, taking the total to 30 years.

He also made him subject to restraining orders against his victims, a notification order for the rest of his life and a barring order banning him from working with children.

Williams was led in silence from the dock into the cells below.

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After the hearing Detective Constable Chris Waddicar of GMP’s Major Incident Team, said: “Firstly, I want to thank the victims in this case for coming forward and being courageous enough to allow us to conduct a thorough investigation.

“Williams’ offending was depraved, he picked on vulnerable young children who were unable to defend themselves. 

“As an investigation team, we hope today’s sentencing can give them some reassurance that justice has been served and their perpetrator is locked up behind bars where he can no longer harm vulnerable members of our community.

“I would like to appeal to anyone out there who was a victim of sexual abuse to come forward to us.

"No matter how long ago it was, we will listen to you and we will help bring your perpetrator to justice."