A FORMER RAF sergeant has been jailed for sexual offences more than 40 years after abusing a junior officer.
Kenneth John Preston, formerly of Crundale in Haverfordwest, was found guilty of indecently assaulting a young recruit at a former RAF base in Pembrokeshire, following a three year investigation by Dyfed-Powys Police.
Despite more than 40 years having passed since the offences took place, detectives successfully overcame challenges in the investigation to secure charges against the now 77-year-old.
He was found guilty of five charges following a trial at Swansea Crown Court.
Officer in case Detective Constable Ben Staniforth said: “This case was brought to our attention by another police force after the victim reported non-recent sexual offences which took place in Pembrokeshire.
“He had reported being assaulted on numerous occasions while stationed at an RAF base in the 1970s by Kenneth Preston, who was an officer senior to him.
“He had carried the weight of these incidents for 40 years, and had found the strength and confidence to come forward and report what had happened to him.”
Officers learned that Preston had targeted the victim while he was a teenager, taking him to secluded areas to sexually abuse him, and threatening to ‘make his life hell’ if he reported the assaults.
Both the suspect and the victim were discharged from the military, but no allegations were made to police until 2017.
CID officers immediately commenced enquiries, but with no CCTV, no forensic opportunities, and military documents no longer available, the scope for investigation was narrow.
DC Staniforth explained: “There are many reasons victims do not come forward until many years have passed. In this case, going against the military rank system and accusing a senior officer.
“Allegations of non-recent offences require a different approach to recent incidents as the passing of time means many routes of enquiry are unavailable.
“Before our investigation could fully get underway, we had to establish if the suspect was alive, as we were aware he would be in his late 70s. While we can investigate complaints against people who are deceased, no charges can be made against them.
“We discovered that Preston was indeed alive and living in the Cornwall area, and arrangements were made to interview him.”
He provided a prepared statement admitting to sexual activity with the victim, but stating it was with consent. This prepared statement – along with consistent disclosures made by the victim to family, friends and a GP in the years before reporting to police – was a key factor in the defendant being charged.
Preston was summonsed to appear at court charged with five counts of indecent assault in May 2019, however delays meant the trial did not take place until September 2020, when he was found guilty of all charges.
He was sentenced on September 18 at Swansea Crown Court, where he was handed an 18-month prison sentence, must continue to register as a sex offender – he is registered after admitting to offences in a separate case – and will be subject to a sexual harm prevention order.
DC Staniforth said: “I hope this conviction gives confidence to other victims of sexual abuse that they can still come forward and report offences many years after they have taken place, and encourages them to take the first step.
“There are people who have struggled to cope with this kind of abuse for many years, but times have changed and there are a number of support networks out there for people who feel it is time to speak – whether they report the matter to police or not.
“I would like to commend the victim for his bravery in speaking out against a senior who abused his position and caused him to lose his military career, and for his patience and cooperation during the investigation.”