Operation Stranger: Court of Appeal Judgment 1968

This Court of Appeal judgment from 1968 suggests that three men – Roy Becker (here named as Ronald Gilbert Becker), Alan Brent (here named as Spicer) and Bryan Owen – were abusing children for at least 20 years before they were convicted under the Brent Inquiry strand of Operation Stranger.

Walter Ballantyne, who was convicted in 1987 under the ‘Dirty Dozen’ strand of Operation Stranger, is also mentioned and although it was clear he was involved – and probably the ringleader too – he was never apprehended.  We have no further information on the man named in this document as ‘Heyday’.

[1968] EWCA Crim J1025-1. No. 3969/68 and No. 4305/68.

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL CRIMINAL DIVISION.  Royal Courts of Justice.  Friday, 25th October 1968


Lord Justice Widgery, Lord Justice Fenton Atkinson and Mr. Justice O’Connor


v. Bryan Maurice Owen


Ronald Gilbert Becker

(From the Shorthand Notes of Cherer & Co., 34 Essex Street, Strand, London, W.C.2. Telephone Number: 01-583 4121. Shorthand Writers to the Court.)

MR. P. DANBURY appeared on behalf of the Appellants.


LORD JUSTICE WIDGERY : These two appellants pleaded guilty with two other men, named respectively Kay and Spicer, at the Central Criminal Court to a number of offences of buggery, Owen to two counts and Becker to three. Owen was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment concurrent on each count, andBecker to five years’ imprisonment concurrent on each count. They now appeal against sentence by leave of the single Judge, who

[1968] EWCA Crim J1025-1 2

indicated his view that, although the sentences perhaps could not be criticised if looked at in isolation, they deserved a further review before the full Court, which is what they have had today.

The offences took place over a period of two years in a house in Highbury, where these appellants were living at the material time with Kay and for some time with another man called Ballantine, who may well have been the ringleader in this affair, but who has never been apprehended. The offences were committed with three boys aged about 12, and they were, as I have said, two offences in the case of Owen and three in the case of Becker. The boys came regularly to this house. There was, we are told, another man called Heyday, who was also concerned in this affair, but who was tried on a different indictment of which we have not got particulars, and the boys were paid half-a-crown a time for subjecting themselves to these offences.

Owen is 41, a single man. He had no previous convictions, he has had a number of employments, and he is to be approached in this case as a man who, apart from this affair, has a perfectly good record. There is nothing to indicate that he is a confirmed homosexual, and there is certainly nothing in his record to suggest he has ever done this kind of thing before.

Becker is older, 53, and he has a long history of crime for offences other than indecency, which offences of course weigh comparatively lightly in the balance of a case of this kind, but he has one other offence of indecency, which occurred more than twenty years ago, at a District Court Martial of indecent conduct. In respect of other activities he has been to prison many times, the last sentence being one of ten years received in 1953. A medical report on him shows that he is a confirmed homosexual, but includes the phrase: “… he seems able normally to exercise control over” his homosexual desires. On that account the doctor did not recommend that any particular treatment was required in his case.

[1968] EWCA Crim J1025-1 3

When sentencing these men, the learned Judge said of Becker: “If I take the view that you are a confirmed homosexual, which I do, my main objective must be to protect other young people from similar conduct in the future”. That clearly explains how the longest sentence of five years was given toBecker.

With regard to Owen, it is evident that the learned Judge thought that greater leniency could be shown, and he was sentenced to two years.

The main complaint made today before this Court is that both those sentences are excessive when compared with the sentences on Kay and Spicer. Kay pleaded guilty to two counts of buggery and was placed on probation for two years; but he was only 20 years of age and clearly was entitled to be dealt with differently on that basis. Spicer pleaded guilty to one count of buggery and received a sentence of two years’ imprisonment suspended. He was 27, namely, older than Kay, and he had got one previous conviction for two cases of indecent assault on a male under the age of 16 years. It is said with force that in view of that record Spicer got off exceedingly lightly compared with Owen and Becker.

Mr. Danbury, who has argued this case, has approached it realistically and has said – and the Court thinks rightly – that if one looks at the sentences alone in respect of the offences no one could say they were wrong. He therefore invites us really to consider his plea on the footing of disparity, disparity between these two men, and in particular, I think he would say, Spicer.

The Court recognises that there is a difference in the treatment between these two men; but it has been said over and over again that if a sentence is correct in itself the Court will not be quick to adjust it merely on account of disparity. It requires circumstances in which the appellant would have a real sense of grievance if no adjustment were made before an argument based on disparity can really be listened to. We do not think that the disparity between

[1968] EWCA Crim J1025-1 4

Owen and Becker on the one hand and Spicer on the other justifies the alteration of sentences which are proper in themselves. Accordingly these appeals are dismissed.


Filed under Abuse, Police Operations

3 responses to “Operation Stranger: Court of Appeal Judgment 1968

  1. Martin

    Heyday may have been called W G Heyday of Willesden of 15 Alric Avenue in London

  2. Pingback: Operation Stranger: Court of Appeal Judgement 1968 | Alternative News Network

  3. Sabre

    The Courts have been remarkably consistent over the years, they’ve never really deemed these offences to be serious.

    People get longer sentences for stealing property i.e theft not robbery.