A disgraced former fireman convicted of sex offences involving young children was today branded a "monster, who has dragged the reputation of the brigade in to the gutter".

Malcolm Vickers is starting a 27-month prison sentence following his conviction at Bradford Crown Court yesterday, and will have to join the police paedophile register for 10 years on his release.

His "long and distinguished service" with the fire brigade was well documented throughout the trial. Although he committed the offences whilst serving at Bradford Central, he retired from the brigade in December.

But Bradford Councillor Tony Niland, a member of the West Yorkshire Fire Authority, said Vickers had clearly let down his fellow firefighters and dragged the reputation of the brigade in to the gutter.

He says he is "appalled" at the length of sentence handed out, and has vowed to lobby the fire authority to ensure Vickers receives not one penny in fire service benefits in the future.

Coun Niland (Lab, Wyke) said: "He is a monster and the length of sentence he has received is a disgrace. It is appalling to think that he committed these crimes while serving in the brigade.

"Firefighters are there to serve the community. They are in a position of trust. He's put these kids through a double trauma - firstly by committing the offences, then making them give evidence in court.

"I will certainly be making representations to the Fire Authority to see if there is anything that can be done. My sympathies go out to his young victims and their families."

During the trial the court heard from various character witnesses, including a Councillor and fire service colleagues, who described the 55-year-old as conscientious and a father-figure to other firemen.

Little did they know that while Vickers served as a fire officer at Bradford Central, he was hunting out young children to satisfy his sexual needs.

Judge Norman Jones QC said he had no doubt Vickers had performed "valiant tasks" on behalf of the public during a near 30-year career.

But as Vickers stood impassively in the dock after yesterday's verdicts defence barrister Simon Lawler QC said the trial had brought utter humiliation and a total loss of reputation.

Vickers joined West Yorkshire Fire Authority in the 1970s after starting his career in Hull. He served as a brigade union official from 1977 until the early 1980s and retired last December.

During the five-day trial he admitted first using the services of prostitutes and teenage girls in 1990. But it was towards the end of 1997 when this practice took a more sinister turn - when he began to hunt out young children.

Vickers, 55, admitted indecently assaulting a 14-year-old girl and attempting to pervert the course of justice. He was found guilty of three charges of indecency, relating to a nine-year-old boy and two nine-year-old girls, and guilty of indecently assaulting a nine-year-old girl. He was cleared of falsely imprisoning two nine-year-old girls.

Young victims' ordeal

The parents of young children who fell victim to paedophile Malcolm Vickers have spoken for the first time of their devastation.

Three of his victims' families were at Bradford Crown Court yesterday for the verdicts, and they wept with joy as sentence was passed.

In October 1997 Vickers went to the rescue of a nine-year-old boy who got stuck in a tree in Bowling Cemetery while collecting conkers with his nine-year-old cousin.

He dragged the pair under a bush, showed them 'dirty magazines' and tried to get the youngsters to touch him indecently.

The boy's family told the T&A: "He's still not able to speak about what happened that day. The first person he told was a teacher, but that wasn't until the following week. It must have been preying on his mind day and night.

"Vickers never showed any kind of remorse about what he'd done. He stood in the witness box and basically called these children liars."

In January 1998 Vickers took two nine-year-old girls to Bowling Cemetery and again showed them sex magazines. The mother of one of the girls said: "She used to be so bubbly - a real giggler. Now she's aggressive and moody. She sleeps in my bed now because she's frightened he'll come back for her.

"All the kids involved have had to grow up too fast. They've had their childhood taken away from them."

The family of the other nine-year-old girl said work colleagues had been raising money to send the youngster to Disney World.

She said: "Vickers had the cheek to stand up in court and say he'd had a 'hell of a year' - what about the children? They are the innocents in all this. The trial has made it even worse. If he'd have pleaded guilty from the start they would have at least been spared the ordeal."

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