A CHOIRMASTER who got a sexual thrill from spanking an 11-year-old boy chorister has been banned from working with children for the rest of his life.
Christopher Ebbs, 37, put the boy over his knee and spanked him with a slipper, Gloucester Crown Court heard.
Aeronautical engineer Ebbs filmed the spanking on DVD - and when his marriage later broke up his wife handed the video evidence to police.
Ebbs, of Main Road, Woodford, Berkeley, pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the boy between October 31, 2006 and July 12, 2007.
After hearing that Ebbs had already spent three and a half months in custody after his arrest - and that he had been beaten up by two men in a revenge attack on Christmas Day - Judge Jamie Tabor QC allowed him to walk free from court.
The judge, who had watched the DVD of the incident in private, sentenced Ebbs to three years' supervision with a condition that he undergoes a sex offenders' treatment programme.
Ebbs, who sat clutching a Bible in the dock throughout the hearing, was also ordered to sign the sex offenders' register for five years - and he was banned from working with children in any capacity for the rest of his life.
"That means no more choirs with children in them," the judge told Ebbs.
The court heard that Ebbs, who has a music degree from the Royal School of Music, ran one of England's largest junior choirs.
Ebbs had converted a room at his home for choir instruction and children would go there for tuition and to try on chorister outfits, said prosecutor Robert Davies.
He said the boy whom Ebbs spanked had been a member of the choir.
"On one occasion there appears to have been a reasonably straightforward music lesson, which you have seen on the film," Mr Davies told the judge.
"At some stage in that, however, there was mention by Mr Ebbs that the boy needed a good slapping when he had done something marginally wrong."
Judge Tabor said he noticed in the film that the boy had found a pair of handuffs and produced them to which Ebbs asked 'Do you want handcuffs?' Mr Davies went on "Your Honour sees that then, essentially, the boy is over Mr Ebbs' knee, his cassock is pulled up and he is being hit on the bottom with a slipper for 20 to 30 seconds."
The judge said "This was not a thrashing as I remember from school. It was more a playful slapping. Certainly, the little boy was not hurting - he appeared to be laughing."
Mr Davies agreed "It doesn't look like the boy is being punished for anything. It seems to have been done for other reasons. At one point Mr Ebbs says 'You are supposed to say Ow or something.
"Mr Ebbs accepts that his behaviour became sexual."
The offence came to light, said the prosecutor, when Ebbs had 'serious matrimonial problems' and separated from his wife - who then provided police with the video.
When Ebbs' computer hard drive was checked by police experts evidence was found of his interest in 'violent bondage as part of his adult sex life,' said Mr Davies.
The computer showed he had made internet searches for websites involved with bondage, chains, and caning, he said.
Ignatius Hughes, mitigating, said Ebbs' choirs had starred in cathedral concerts and on BBC TV.
"He ran a well known, well respected and highly competent choir," Mr Hughes said. "He holds a degree in music from the Royal School of Music.
"There have been witnesses who have made statements suggesting that the whole thing was a charade and a Mickey Mouse choir but nothing could be further from the truth and the Crown accepts that.
"You are dealing with a man who has worked with choirs for 15 years and not just children's choirs. He has worked also with adults."
Mr Hughes said Ebbs was a man of previous good character who had now lost his job in an aeronautical career and was unlikely ever to have such work again because he would not get Ministry of Defence security clearance following his conviction.
He would also be stopped from carrying on his choir work, having provided 'an extremely admirable activity for children, very often underprivileged children,' the barrister added.
"He has taught them how to achieve and has succeeded in giving a sense of worth to a great many people," said Mr Hughes.
"This man has given an awful lot to his community."
The offence happened at a time when Ebbs was stressed by his long working hours both with the choir and his job, he said.
"He accepts of course that he has certain predilections and doesn't for a moment go behind that."
Mr Hughes said that during the lesson with the boy Ebbs accepted that his 'motivation became sexual.' But the spanking was with clothes on and there was no direct contact with sexual organs, he said.
The boy himself had not even remembered the incident when he was asked about it by police, he added.
Ebbs was genuinely ashamed of what he had done and had already paid a high price by serving the equivalent of a seven month jail term when he was remanded in custody, said Mr Hughes.
"On Christmas Day he was assaulted badly outside his own home, dragged into a nearby outbuilding and kicked very badly by two men. He has two broken ribs, dislocated hip, bruises all over his body.
"He was taken to Frenchay Hospital because of worries about a head injury. He had a very large lump to the back of his head.
"Something was said during the assault which made it plain the men had an interest in this case.
"The assault has not been reported to the police. He does not seek criminal or any retribution at all."
Passing sentence, the judge told Ebbs that he ignored other charges against him of voyeurism and sexual assault on a girl in the USA because he had denied them and they had not been proceeded with by the Crown.
"You are to be sentenced simply for spanking a 10-year-old inappropriately and obtaining sexual gratification from it," said the judge.
Judge Tabor said he abided by Ebbs' own basis of plea, accepted by the prosecution.
The basis of plea said Ebbs had run a well respected and highly competent choir, held a degree from the RSM and had organised choirs for 15 years.
"At the time of the offence you had been working many hours, your marriage was breaking up and you were under stress.
"You do have an interest in mild bondage in your adult sexual life. On this occasion, while chastisting this particular child, the touching became sexual. But your motivation in running the choir was entirely bona fide."
The judge told Ebbs "You were giving this young man a music test, both vocal and sight reading. That is what took up most of the time in the film I watched.
"At the end of that this young man lay across your knees and you spanked him mildly with a slipper. It certainly was not a spanking which hurt him.
"He was giggling throughout it as far as I could tell. But you undoubtedly, as you accept, obtained a degree of sexual gratification from it."
The seriousness of the offence, said the judge, was that the boy was very young and that it was in breach of trust.
"Parents throughout Gloucestershire had entrusted both male and female children into your hands to be taught to sing and to appreciate music and it is a betrayal of them as well as that young man which is the seriousness of this offence," Judge Tabor said.
"They will undoubtedly feel 'I wonder what he did to our little boy or little girl' as well. It was a considerable breach of trust and one which cannot be ignored."
The judge said he would not pass a prison term, however, because Ebbs' time in custody on remand was already longer than the guideline sentence for the offence.
The most effective thing, he said, was to make orders which would prevent Ebbs coming into contact with children again as well as making him address his offending.
After the hearing, however, the boy's father said: "I would have liked to see him jailed for longer for what he did. The sentence should have been harsher.
"It's not true that my son was unaffected by this. He is now emotionally charged. Before this happened he was a very quiet and subdued young man with a very caring nature but this has made him erratic in his behaviour.
"He won't talk to us about what happened. I am seeking counselling for him and for another of my children who has also been affected by this."
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