Peter Rowell, 53, given six years for a string of sexual assaults on girls aged 13 to 16 during the late 1980s and early 1990s
A television and radio presenter has been jailed for six years after admitting a string of sexual assaults on schoolgirls.
Peter Rowell, 53, used his position as a DJ on a local radio station to groom and abuse impressionable young teenagers. He invited star-struck youngsters to his studio and then abused them there, in his car or even at their homes.
The father of one, from Wickwar, south Gloucestershire, pleaded guilty at Bristol crown court to 12 counts of indecent assault following complaints from five women.
The assaults occurred between 1989 and the early 1990s when the women were all under 16 years old, the court heard. Rowell also admitted six counts of taking indecent photographs of children and possession of more than 400 indecent images.
Jailing him, Judge David Ticehurst told Rowell that he had a good career, a good income and a family but behind that he hid a dark secret.
"You had a life and lifestyle that would have been the envy of many - an apparently successful career in a glamorous and glittering world," the judge said. "Behind that public image you were a man that hid a dark secret. You were attracted to young girls, sexually abusing and exploiting for your own gratification.
"You were someone prepared to use the world of showbiz to attract young girls to you to abuse them. It is not a case of you involving yourself with a star-struck teenager on an isolated occasion and succumbing to temptation but a series of offences involving five separate girls over a period of five years."
The judge said that the offences had occurred when Rowell was in his mid-30s and working as a DJ on GWR, a local commercial radio station south-west England.
"These girls made contact with you as a minor celebrity," the judge said. "You invited them to visit your studio and they believed they were getting an insight into the media world. In truth it was enabling you to sexually abuse them."
Rowell's victims, supported by their friends and family, filled the public gallery to see him brought to justice.
Prosecutor Ian Fenny told the court: "For many years he has been a well-known local personality, first as a DJ on GWR and then a continuity and news presenter on HTV and later as a radio presenter for BBC Radio Bristol."
Fenny said that Rowell enjoyed his celebrity lifestyle and was known for his charitable work. "For many years he enjoyed being a celebrity. He was aware this media personality gave him status and gave him allure," Fenny said.
"To the outside world he appeared a responsible family man. What in fact the public didn't know is that he exploited his position to sexually abuse young girls."
The court heard how the victims, aged between 13 and 16, would often phone in and request songs on Rowell's music show on the Bristol-based GWR. He would then ring them back off-air and invite them for a tour of the studio.
"He would lead them to believe that he wanted a meaningful relationship with them," Fenny said. "One of the complainant's believed he would leave his wife for her."
Fenny added: "This was part of the skill in grooming his young victims. He also told them that no one should know about their relationship as others would spoil it."
Rowell sparked a police hunt when he was reported missing in March after failing to turn up to present his regular afternoon programme.
His car was found abandoned in a supermarket car park in south Gloucestershire and he was later found in Keswick, Cumbria.
Speaking after sentencing, Detective Inspector Jill Kells from Avon and Somerset police, said: "The sentence passed today is down to the courage of the victims who have been willing to come forward and face the possibility of a trial.
"Their bravery and the determination of my team has led to the conviction of Peter Rowell for offences of sexual assault against young teenage girls. These crimes clearly demonstrated predatory and grooming behaviour."