The founder of a care home for children broke down and wept as he was found guilty of abusing two school-age girls.
Stephen Hyland, 54, of Aller Road, Langport, founder of “Prospects” to care for children, was convicted – following a nine-day trial – of indecent assault, rape and cruelty in unanimous verdicts by a jury of nine men and three women. The jury also brought in majority verdicts on one further charge of indecent assault, three of rape and one other of sexual abuse.
The jury was discharged from reaching verdicts on four other charges.
Hyland faces a possible prison sentence.
Judge Eric Salomonsen remanded him in custody for sentencing on a date to be fixed.
Taunton Crown Court was told he physically and sexually abused the girls, who cannot be identified for legal reasons. He was described as a forceful and extremely controlling person who they were frightened of.
Prosecutor Ian Dixey said he was in a powerful position because they came from dysfunctional backgrounds. He was an aggressive man who had arguments with a number of people and usually succeeded in winning.
Offences against one girl began when she was 11 and continued until she was about 15. She later visited Hyland with a secret recording device and taped a conversation.
She asked him: “Why did you do it?” and he replied: “I don’t know, why did you?” and she said “I was only 11”.
She later learnt a second girl had also been abused by Hyland.
Hyland told the jury she was “a very damaged child” and added: “These youngsters can quickly become fixated on someone. I reported concerns I had and was drawing attention to everything that was going on”.
He admitted he was not a qualified social worker but added: “I have been on a number of courses and we have psychiatrists, psychologists and consultants”.
He said the tape recording was not a full account.
October 1997: Hyland announces the creation of Prospects, a voluntary organisation to help traumatised children who have no one to turn to, in Somerton.
August 1999: A carer wins a case of sexual harassment against Stephen Hyland and is awarded £7,830 compensation.
March 2000: Prospects has its registration revoked after a Department of Health inspection. Managing Director Stephen Hyland says the inspection had come on a bad week and later appeals against the Department of Health decision. The business is allowed to continue throughout the appeal process.
September 2000: Hyland claims he has been forced to consider putting the company into voluntary liquidation.
February 2001: Papers receive letters of support from seven of Mr Hyland’s staff and children who had been in his care.
March 2001: The High Court rules that the Department of Health acted prematurely by shutting down Prospects.
April 2008: Hyland makes his first appearance in court after being charged with assault. The case is adjourned after the defence team try to produce documents from the local authority responsible for the case of the young girl who was the alleged victim.
July 2008: Hyland appears before Frome Magistrates to deny assaulting a teenage girl with behavioural problems, and says he employed a restraint procedure after she bit his finger in 2006.
October 2008: The trial comes to a dramatic halt when Hyland collapses in court and was rushed by ambulance to Bath’s Royal United Hospital with a suspected heart attack.
January 2009: Hyland complains of chest pains during an appearance at Frome Magistrates Court, is given oxygen and taken to hospital for tests.
July 2009: After months of delays Hyland is found guilty of assaulting a 17-year-old girl in his charge. He later appeals and loses.
December 2010: Hyland is charged with raping a girl over a five-year period and sexually assaulting another between 1993 and 1998.
May 2011: Hyland pleads not guilty at Taunton Crown Court to five charges of indecent assault between 1993 and 1997, four of rape, three of serious sexual assault, one of assault and one of cruelty.
September 2012: Case goes to trial. Hyland is found guilty of rape, indecent assault and cruelty charges against two school-age girls. A jury failed to reach a decision on four further charges. Hyland faces possible prison sentence and is remanded in custody.