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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Caught in the Act: Gomer and others (1942) part 2

Prosecuting the case for the County Solicitor, Mr. P. Prideaux stated by Ronald Gomer was the ringleader of the three men charged. He held the post of organist and choirmaster at a church and had been in the habit of befriending other members of that church and bringing them to his house in Wimborne.

The earliest acquaintance was Harold Miller, who he befriended as far back as 1929. Gomer used to stay at Miller's parents' house in Winton when he went over to perform church duties at the weekend. Gomer also struck up acquaintance with three choir boys, befriended them, and asked them to come to his house.

Having no desire to see others get into trouble, Gomer made a statement in which he explained very fully his mode of life—how he came to commit the acts and the circumstances in which photographs were taken and letters written. Det.-Sgt. Fudge, of Wimborne, gave evidence that a search of Gomer's house had resulted in the discovery of 17 negatives, which were subsequently developed.

Gomer, later described as a man of artistic temperament, had been the organist and choirmaster at a Bournemouth church for 26 years. An only child, he had developed an early interest in music and he later earned a living teaching music and as an organist at local churches. He attributed his behaviour chiefly to "a sense of loneliness"—following the death of his parents in 1932 he had "more or less" lived alone and devoted himself to his interests in music, poetry and art. He had produced a masque at Wimborne in 1934 and published some small books of poetry.

He had known Francis (Frank) Hart for some years and they had taken their holidays together. Hart was born in Wimborne and had been employed as an assistant teacher to a local school where he remained for 15 years. Early in 1941, he became headmaster of a school in Dorchester and had given every satisfaction in his employment and spent many hours in work of national importance. Since boyhood he had been a member of the church choir and had been very active in matters connected with the church. For 15 years he held the position of a Scoutmaster.

Hart and Gomer visited each other's homes, playing cards. During the trial, Gomer was described as having done excellent work in connection with church matters, having been vestry clerk at a Wimborne church, chairman of a Scout troop at the Bournemouth church, and honorary secretary of the Wimburnians Association. Everyone spoke very highly of his energies in these directions.

However, at his trial, Mr. Justice Lawrence said that "I have no doubt that you, Gomer, were principally responsible," when passing sentence. Gomer, for his part, had said that when taking the photographs, that it was all treated as a joke. At the time of the acts, he said, their seriousness did not register in his mind and, of the 81 letters he had written to Harold Miller, he admitted that quite a number were indecent, but they were intended to be read only by Miller.

Miller, a native of Oldham, had worked as a clerk before joining the R.A.F. in 1940. He was an energetic worker connected with a Bournemouth church, being sacristan and Scoutmaster for the church troop. He had first met Gomer at the age of 17 but nothing had happened between them until 1938. Gomer had shown a keen interest in his welfare and, whilst unemployed for short periods, had received financial assistance from his friend. Commenting on the letters, Miller said he believed they were a "mere fabrication of a lonely mind."

Mr. J. B. Carson, for Gomer, described how the latter believed he suffered a "medical kink" and that he had expressed a desire to try and undergo some treatment to stop these tendencies. Carson asked for leniency in view of the fact that this was so much a medical case.

Mr. Justice Lawrence clearly disagreed and on 19 January 1942 sentenced Gomer to three years penal serviture. Hart and Miller each received six months imprisonment in the second division. At trial, all three had pleaded guilty.

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