Report by James Franklin , Reporter
Thursday, June 28, 2012
A NORTH Somerset businessman has been cleared of sexually abusing a young girl.
Maurice Dance sobbed with relief as a jury found him not guilty of seven charges of indecently assaulting the girl from 1987 to 1991.
Mr Dance, who said his Sandford-based firm D&M Haulage had failed as a result of the allegations, had pleaded not guilty to all charges and on May 23 he was cleared of all the allegations against him by a jury at Exeter Crown Court.
A press ban had prevented reporting of the case until it was lifted last week.
Mr Dance and his brother Colin were arrested and charged following the exhumation of his sister Belinda ‘Binny’ Day’s body from a graveyard.
She was 27 when she threw herself off cliffs in Budleigh Salterton, Devon, in 1989, but police exhumed her body as part of Operation Goodrich, an investigation into historical sex cases.
At the trial Nicolas Gerasimidis, prosecuting, claimed 59-year-old Mr Dance had abused the alleged victim from the ages of three-and-a-half to seven, using threats to silence her.
The woman who alleged Mr Dance sexually abused her claimed he told her not to tell her mother, saying ‘it’s a big, big secret’ and said that she ‘really will get hurt’ if she told.
Grant Vanstone, defending Mr Dance, who has no previous convictions, told the jury his client was a man of good character and a children’s charity worker.
When cross-examined, a sobbing Mr Dance said the abuse allegations, which were originally made in the 1980s, had ruined his trust in people and caused his business in Greenhill Road, Sandford, to cease trading.
After hearing evidence which lasted two-and-a-half days, a jury took an hour to find Mr Dance, of Queens Road, Budleigh Salterton, not guilty of five counts of indecently assaulting a child under the age of five, and two counts of committing gross indecency with a child under the age of 14.
After the verdict Mr Dance, who had been on crutches throughout the duration of the trial, said: “It’s been a long time. I am not prepared to make any more comments.”
Colin Dance, of Roseway, Littleham in Devon, was found guilty of committing gross indecency with a child between February 1974 and February 1980 by a jury at the same court in April, and sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in jail. Another brother, Tommy Dance, of Queens Road, Budleigh, was jailed in August 2010 for 21-and-a-half years after admitting committing a catalogue of sex crimes against underage girls.