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Parish chairman who led revolt against police checks faces jail for raping a 16-year-old girl

A parish chairman who led a revolt against police checks on councillors is facing jail for raping a 16-year-old girl.

Mark McCormick, 49, also admitted inciting five schoolboys to engage in sexual activity – dating from his time as a DJ at teenage discos.

His secret perverted past only came to light after a series of victims came forward, and the Bursledon Parish Council office in the Hampshire village’s community centre was raided, and computers seized.

Mark McCormick (pictured), former parish councillor in Bursledon, Hampshire, has pleaded guilty to rape and multiple charges involving indecent assaults on children

McCormick pleaded guilty at the last minute to 14 sexual abuse charges at Southampton Crown Court on Tuesday. He had forced his victims to go through the ordeal of preparing to give evidence, only to finally admit the truth as the trial was about to begin.

McCormick faces a long prison term for one count of rape, three of indecent activity with a child, two counts of multiple incidents of indecent assault on a child, five of indecent assault on a male, one of sexual assault and one count of taking indecent photographs of a child.

The charges relate to seven youngsters, five under 16, and took place between 1997 and 2011. McCormick was remanded in custody to be sentenced on October 12. It is understood that he has stepped down as parish council chairman – the role he was re-elected to in May 2016. The drama began four years ago when Eastleigh Borough Council spent £4million on The Lowford Community Centre in Bursledon – where 1980s boatyard soap opera Howards’ Way was filmed.

It included a GP surgery, a volunteer-run library and an office for the parish council – and was run by the Bursledon and District Community Association, headed by chairman John Misselbrook.

Early in 2016 he told the parish that its councillors and the library volunteers had to go through Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks for criminal and police records to satisfy the centre’s insurer.

When members failed to comply, he evicted them.

Keith House, the Liberal Democrat leader of Eastleigh Borough Council, led opposition to police checks, arguing that Hampshire County Council does not ‘subject library staff to DBS checks’. Only after the parish council, under McCormick, had spent £18,000 of public money on a legal battle over the eviction, did the local councillors agree in November 2016 ‘to carry out DBS checks against each member of staff and volunteer’ at the community library.

Appearing at Southampton Crown Court (pictured), McCormick  admitted raping a 16-year-old girl along with multiple incidents of indecent assault on children

Appearing at Southampton Crown Court (pictured), McCormick admitted raping a 16-year-old girl along with multiple incidents of indecent assault on children

But they did not offer to do the same for parish councillors.

A compromise was eventually reached, with the parish council allowed to use the hall again. But McCormick had still not provided his criminal record, and has not done so to date.

Earlier last year, officers from Hampshire Police told Mr Misselbrook about a risk to children posed by two ‘potentially dangerous’ men frequenting the community centre. Police then raided its parish council office and chairman McCormick, a Liberal Democrat who describes himself as a ‘voiceover artiste, DJ and radio presenter’, was arrested at home on suspicion of grooming a teenage boy.

McCormick said in his annual report to his council last year: ‘The Parish Council and the Library have had in place since its opening both a child protection and a safeguarding policy and the Library has an appointed safeguarding officer.

‘However, to obtain DBS checks the Parish Council had to adopt certain policies to allow us to have these checks made. Contrary to certain speculation there are a number of hoops we must go through to have people DBS checked.

‘However, as I said earlier we have complied with all the policies and we are now in the process of obtaining these checks for all the relevant people..’

It was not clear even then if he considered parish councillors to be ‘relevant people’ and he did not comply. It is understood he had already attracted police attention so would have failed a police check. When approached by the Daily Mail before his guilty plea and asked about his refusal to provide checks, he slammed the door.