A care home boss has been jailed for 19 years for abusing two children after one of his victims secretly taped him making a confession.
Stephen Hyland, aged 55, ran seven children’s homes in Somerset and abused his position to impose a reign of fear in which he treated girls in his care like slaves.
He raped one repeatedly after taking her to an outhouse and claiming that he was counselling her to help her cope with previous abuse.
Hyland was led away from the dock shouting “You have just sentenced an innocent man to die in prison” after being jailed at Exeter Crown Court.
Hyland was allowed to found and run a chain of care homes despite having no qualifications in social work or child care and he used his background as a karate black belt to intimidate his victims.
He beat and kicked the children and forced two girls aged ten to 17 to take part in sex acts which escalated to repeated rape in one case.
Hyland, of Aller Road, Langport, Somerset, denied all the offences but was found guilty by a jury at Taunton Crown Court at an earlier hearing of four rapes, another serious sexual assault, three indecent assaults, and two counts of child cruelty.
He was jailed for a total 19 years by Judge Erik Salomonsen who told him the victims were already vulnerable as a result of abuse at home which led them being moved into care in Somerset.
He told him: “The first victim did not complain because she had nowhere else to go and she was in fear of you. The girls felt dirty and disgusted as a result of your abuse. You punched, slapped and kicked these children and they described beatings. One said you were so violent she almost jumped out of a window. They both believed because of your knowledge of karate you could hurt them without leaving any physical marks. They say you treated them like slaves.
“It has had a profound effect on the victims, one of whom says she is still scared of returning to Somerset.
“There was a high level of culpability. You deliberately targeted very vulnerable victims for your own gratification. You acted in abuse of power and gross abuse of the trust of both the local authority and these children.”
During his trial at Taunton the two victims described how he abused them after they were moved into his care at a home in Ashcott, Somerset, after suffering abusive childhoods elsewhere.
The crucial evidence against him was a secret tape made by one of the girls in which she asked him: “Why did you do it?” and he replied: “I don’t know, why did you?” The jury heard her answer: “I was only 11.”
Mr Ignatius Hughes, QC, said Hyland continues to protest his innocence and will find it hard to serve a jail sentence because he has a long history of heart disease and other medical problems.