Published on March 15th, 2000 | by admin0
Ex-Radio 1 DJ jailed in Prague for child sex abuse
Kate Connolly in Prague
The Guardian, Wednesday 15 March 2000 20.32 EST
A former Radio 1 DJ who sexually abused young boys during holiday trips to Prague was yesterday sentenced to four and a half years in jail by a Czech court.
Chris Denning, aged 58, who was in the Radio 1 line-up alongside Terry Wogan, Jimmy Saville and John Peel when it began broadcasting in 1967, was told by the judge Viktor Mach, sentencing, that he was “a social danger”.
He was convicted on eight charges of sexually abusing boys under the age of 15, and of corrupting the moral education of under 18-year-olds.
Denning was arrested in Prague in November 1997 on 10 charges of sexual abuse from June of that year until his arrest. He denied the charges.
The court heard how he and co-defendants, an American, Lindsay Shannon, 45, and two Frenchmen, Jean-Pierre Roffi and Jean-Marc Smadja, also in their forties, visited Prague’s bars, gambling halls and swimming pools to make contact with the boys, some as young as 13. Denning then took them back to his flat, fondled them and had sex, paying them for their services.
The 16-month long trial, which heard statements from more than 50 witnesses and experts, has been the highest profile sexual abuse case in the Czech republic.
The former DJ’s final defence statement took almost 40 hours to deliver, making it the longest such statement in the country’s recorded legal history. He used the statement to protest his innocence and said that the boys he had met in Prague had “thrust themselves” upon him.
Ivana Vancurova, prosecuting, told the court how Denning and his co-defendants formed bonds of trust with the boys.
“They gave them financial aid and gifts and invited them to restaurants so the victims came to trust them … the accused exploited this trust to have sexual relations with the victims,” she said.
Denning, who has already spent two and a half years in custody in Prague’s Pankrac prison, is likely to serve another two years.
He told the court that his diabetes made it impossible for him to perform sexually. If anything sexual happened between him and the boys, he said, it was “in the most friendly, consensual circumstances”.
The court heard that Denning had a string of convictions for sexual assault and gross indecency in Britain going back to 1974, most recently from February 1996 when he received a 10-week jail term for possessing child pornography. He told the court that the boys he met in Prague were mostly from broken homes and in need of a father figure. They looked up to him as a friend and admired him because he had worked as a prostitute as a boy in London, he said.
After leaving Radio 1 Denning worked as a record promoter, working with the Beatles and helping to launch the careers of Gary Glitter and the Bay City Rollers.
Before his arrest he ran a music and video company from his home in Bracknell, Berkshire, but has since lost his 10 bedroom house and now faces bankruptcy.
“I’ve lost the entire structure of my private life,” he said. “My property, house, vehicle, savings … as well as my private company and clients.”
Throughout the trial Denning described how he had struggled to come to terms with his sexuality, visiting a psychoanalyst for five years in the 1970s and becoming the youngest member of the homosexual law reform society in London at the age of 14.
His lawyer, Tomas Matusek, said Denning was a financially broken man whose value system had been turned on its head. He said that his client had filled a void by looking after his male “friends”.
If he were to be deported to Britain, he warned that Denning would face persecution for his sexual orientation in his own country.
Shannon, Roffi and Smadja were all sentenced to three and a half years in jail.
As a foreigner, Denning will probably serve the full four and a half year term without probation, but he could apply to serve the sentence in Britain.
Judge Mach ordered him to be deported for an indefinite period at the end of his prison term. Under the 1997 sex offenders act Denning could face prosecution for the same case if he returns to Britain.