A FORMER lorry driver and Boscombe fish shop worker has been jailed for 27 years after being found guilty of a horrific catalogue of offences.

A Crown Court judge described William Clark as a "violent bully" who "revelled in physical assaults" and added: "The sentence I pass will inevitably result in you spending much, if not all, of your life in prison."

The 67-year-old stumbled in the dock and muttered under his breath as Judge Stephen Climie handed down the sentence.

He had been found guilty of five offences of multi-incident child rape, four charges of cruelty to a person under the age of 16 and one of cruelty, leading to an assault following a two-week trial at Bournemouth Crown Court.

His wife, Sonia, 73, of the same address, received a 14-month jail sentence after being found guilty of two offences of cruelty to a person under the age of 16.

The court heard William Clark, a grandfather, degraded and humiliated his victims during what Judge Climie described as "a reign of terror" in the 1970s and 80s.

Moving victim impact statements were made to the court during the sentencing hearing.

The judge said a "significant degree of planning" went into Clark's offences and said there was very little mitigation, apart from his age.

The court heard Mrs Clark, a housewife, was diagnosed with Follicular Lymphoma in recent years and is currently in remission. She has diabetes and suffers from high blood pressure.

Her barrister urged the judge to suspend any jail term handed down to her but Judge Climie refused to do so.

The couple used to work for Greenslades, running a wet fish shop in Boscombe.

Detective Constable Carole Darkin, of Dorset Police’s Child Abuse Investigation Team, praised the victims in the case for coming forward and reporting the offences. "They have shown great courage to support the investigation and give evidence in court in such challenging circumstances.

“Nothing will ever compensate for what they have had to experience, but I hope the sentences handed down by the court will allow them to move forward with their lives in the knowledge both offenders are behind bars.”

The Dorset Police Child Abuse Investigation Team (CAIT) investigates instances of child abuse, including child sexual abuse, and works to bring offenders to justice.

The survivors that the team help are often very traumatised, and detectives work closely with social services, health and education to ensure support is in place and solutions are created which prioritise the children.

The team manages cases of current sexual abuse against children as well as cases reported by adult survivors many years later.

If you have experienced sexual violence, or if you know someone who has, there are many organisations that can help. Visit www.dorsetforyou.com/dvahelp for details, or call Dorset Rape Crisis Support Centre on 01202 308855 or The Shores (Dorset Sexual Assault Referral Centre) on 01202 552056.

Perpetrators – for advice about changing behaviour, call the Respect helpline on 0845 122 8609.