Jail terms for school abuse trio

Baker, Putman & Hennessey
Baker, Putman & Hennessey

Three men have been jailed after being found guilty of historical sexual abuse at a school for vulnerable boys over a period of more than 30 years.

Colwyn Baker, 71, David Hennessy, 75, and Nigel Putman, 62, abused youngsters at the now-defunct Swaylands School in Penshurst, Kent.

As well as the abuse committed by the trio, Baker encouraged other pupils to abuse other children at the school for youngsters aged around eight to 16.

His “favourites” were known as “Baker’s Boys” and over many years Baker “ruled by fear” using intimidation and coercion, a judge said.

Sentencing the men, the judge said the case “constitutes one of the worst possible breaches of trust that a court can deal with”.

And he added that the abuse suffered by the victims would be “seared in their memory banks … for the rest of their lives”.

The three men were residential child care officers at Swaylands, which closed in 1994, but their abuse left many victims with life-long problems, according to victim impact statements.

Barnet Council in north London ran the school, which was an institution for young people with moderate learning difficulties and later schooled boys with emotional and behavioural problems.

At Maidstone Crown Court today, Baker, of Craighouse Avenue, Morningside, Edinburgh, was jailed for 20 years after being found guilty of 20 counts, stretching back to 1963, following a 12-week trial.

Hennessy, of Westfields, Narborough, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, was jailed for 12 years after being convicted of six counts and Putman, of Kings Road, Slough, Berkshire, was jailed for three years after being found guilty of two counts.

 

In a packed courtroom, victim impact statements were read by prosecutor Philip Bennetts QC, detailing the toll the abuse had had on victims’ lives.

One victim said in his statement: “At the time I didn’t realise it was wrong because the abuse was done in a way that made it seem OK.

“I was sent to the school because I needed looking after. I was a little boy and I wasn’t looked after. I was made to do things that I shouldn’t. This will always affect me.”

Another told how he had only been at the school for two weeks when Hennessy started abusing him. He said he blamed himself “for letting him do it” and could “never sleep peacefully”.

He said: “I didn’t stand a chance. It was a school for vulnerable children and they took advantage of that.”

He added that the experience had “ruined his life” and he suffers from nightmares and flashbacks.

All three men sat in the dock impassively as the statements were read, with Baker occasionally taking sips from a cup of water.

During their trial, Mr Bennetts said the atmosphere at the school was one “where abuse was almost the norm”.

One of Baker’s victims became so scared that he often stayed awake at night, sleeping in stairwells to avoid Baker.

As a result, the boy would often fall asleep in class, causing a dramatic decline in his learning. But Mr Bennetts said the boy ended up being caned by the headmaster as a punishment for dozing off.

In mitigation, Benjamin Narain, defending Baker, said he suffered from medical issues, including hypertension, diabetes and had made several suicide bids after suffering depression.

Since leaving Swaylands, Baker had gained a degree in software engineering from Edinburgh Napier University, Mr Narain added.

He conceded that prison would be a “hard experience” for Baker but accepted he faced a lengthy term of imprisonment for the abuse he committed.

Alan Kent QC, for married ex-Royal Navy member Hennessy, spoke of his client’s confusion about his sexuality in his younger years. And he said Hennessy had lived for the past 20 years an “unblemished life” in Norfolk.

Henry Grunwald QC, for Putman, described his client as “of positive good character” who was married with an adopted daughter, adding he suffered from Type 2 diabetes and was the primary carer for his ill wife.

Lawyers at law firm Leigh Day, representing survivors of abuse at the school, have said the men “picked on” the most vulnerable children who came from already troubled backgrounds or had special needs.

Instead of being sent from London to Swaylands to be cared for, the men “cruelly abused” them and created an environment where sex between children became “normalised through fear”, said Alison Millar, head of the abuse team at Leigh Day.

Questions have been raised about the checks made to ensure appropriate people were trusted with the care of the children and about supervision arrangements.

Jurors were told during the trial that Baker was convicted in 1994 of four counts of indecent assault on a boy aged under 16 and one count of gross indecency.

And it was also disclosed that Hennessy was convicted in December 1993 of four counts of indecent assault on a boy and two sex offences against a pupil.

There were further calls, following the case, for a British “mandatory reporting” law to be introduced where those who do not report child abuse suspicions face prosecution.

Barnet Council has said it was sorry for the abuse suffered by the victims. And it said there was a “continuing need to learn lessons from the past” to keep children safe.

A council spokesman said it no longer runs distant boarding schools for vulnerable children. Barnet’s two current residential children’s homes are both within the borough.

 

Judge Philip Statman said that, to the outsider, Swaylands had excellent facilities, with a swimming pool and regular trips were laid on for children.

“But when the veneer was stripped away in this courtroom it has been revealed in a wholly different picture, namely one of sexual abuse, perpetrated by those in a position of trust against young, vulnerable boys as they approached and proceeded through adolescence,” he said.

The judge praised the victims for their “courage, dignity and restraint” as well as police for upholding the “highest standards”.

And, addressing the men in the dock, he went on: “What those pupils, as they then were, suffered at your hands is seared in their memory banks, in my judgment, for the rest of their lives.

“At a time when they were journeying through adolescence and had arrived at school with educational difficulties, needing stability and a caring environment, they were met by sexual abuse.

“The night-time hours became a time of fear for them. Who among those who have sat in this court listening to the evidence will forget the evidence of (a victim) and of how he would hide at night to avoid attention from sexual abuse.

“They remained scarred by what happened to them and it’s clear from their victim impact statements of their shame and embarrassment.

“Who could they trust? Who would listen to them? How many have had to challenge their own sexual identity?”

 

Following the case, Detective Superintendent Paul Fotheringham, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: “This sentencing brings to a close a comprehensive investigation that has lasted a number of years.

“I’m pleased with the sentences that have been passed, and it shows that no matter how long the passage of time, if you are convicted of carrying out sexual offences you will feel the full weight of the law.

“As residential child care officers, Baker, Hennessy and Putman were supposed to look after the boys out of class. Instead they exploited the pupils in their care and committed horrible acts over a long period of time.

“The first victims in this case came forward in 2011. But it soon became apparent there had been others affected and officers went to great lengths to ensure no stone was left unturned.

“After a great deal of work by all parties, the Crown Prosecution Service agreed to charge these three men with 48 counts of sexual abuse on 24 children, though our officers spoke to many more ex-pupils as part of our very thorough investigation.

“Officers heard how some children who tried to resist the offenders’ abuse would be beaten or refused food. At other times, classmates of uncooperative victims were denied leisure activities – to make the victim unpopular and feel guilty.

“Despite the weight of this corroborative evidence the three men refused to admit to their crimes. Instead they forced their victims to appear at court and recount the abuse they had suffered all those years ago.

“We had 65 ex-pupils make allegations, and with the victims and CPS we have put forward the strongest case to the court.

“All the victims were involved in the process and have been kept fully up to date. This is justice for all of them and I’d personally like to thank all those who have helped bring this case to a conclusion.”

Alison Millar, head of the abuse team at law firm Leigh Day which is representing survivors of abuse at the school, said: “These offences were hideous and the sentences handed down are significant given the restrictions on the judge to use the sentencing requirements of the time, when the maximum sentences for serious sexual assault were very different.

“One of our clients told us that it felt like they’d waited all their life for this moment.

“However, the criminal justice process has been traumatic for our clients, requiring them to relive the most personal and traumatic memories and feelings and then be cross-examined in court about their recollections.

“This case clearly demonstrates the vital importance of proper support and assistance for those dealing with the lasting effects of abuse.

“It is also of great concern that Hennessy was allowed back into his post, to continue to abuse boys, having left ‘under a cloud’ 18 months before.

“The mistakes of the past cannot be allowed to happen in the present. We urgently call for mandatory reporting of all suspected child abuse to ensure that all schools and other institutions are made to report such concerns to the police and cannot be allowed to deal with it as they see fit.”

Rotherham – damning report published

Welcome-to-Rotherham

A criminal investigation is to be started after a damning new report into Rotherham’s child sexual exploitation prompted the replacement of its entire political leadership with Government commissioners.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles announced the measures to replace the council’s “wholly dysfunctional” political leadership just moments after the authority’s entire cabinet announced its intention to resign in the wake of the Louise Casey inspection report.

At the same time, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said its ongoing investigation into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham was to be extended in the light of Miss Casey’s findings.

The NCA said it will ” examine a number of potentially criminal matters identified during a recent inspection of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council”.

Council not fit for purpose

Umar-Razaq

A damning new report into the failings at Rotherham Council commissioned following the child sexual exploitation scandal that engulfed the town has concluded that the authority is “not fit for purpose”.

Louise Casey was asked by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to inspect the council following the Jay Report last year which found that more than 1,400 children had been subjected to rape, violence and trafficking by gangs of mainly Asian men in the South Yorkshire town between 1997 and 2013.

Today, in her inspection report, Ms Casey said: “This inspection revealed past and present failures to accept, understand and combat the issue of child sexual exploitation (CSE), resulting in a lack of support for victims and insufficient action against known perpetrators.

“The council’s culture is unhealthy: bullying, sexism, suppression and misplaced ‘political correctness’ have cemented its failures. The council is currently incapable of tackling its weaknesses, without a sustained intervention.”

Mr Pickles is due to make a statement to the Commons later.

May to name new Chair of Child Abuse Inquiry

Theresa-May

Theresa May is expected to announce the new chair of the troubled child abuse inquiry following the resignations of two previous holders of the post.

The Home Secretary has also been considering the format of the inquiry, which could potentially involve scrapping the existing panel and replacing it with a more powerful body.

The new appointment follows the loss of two former chairwomen, who stood down over perceived conflicts of interest.

A Home Office spokesman said: “The Home Secretary has been having a series of meetings with survivors of child abuse right up to this point. She is going to make an announcement today.”

The first person appointed to lead the inquiry was Baroness Butler-Sloss, who stood down as chairwoman in July last year amid questions over the role played by her late brother, Lord Havers, who was attorney general in the 1980s.

Her replacement Dame Fiona Woolf resigned following a barrage of criticism over her “Establishment links”, most notably in relation to former home secretary Leon Brittan, who died last month.

Mrs May, who set up the inquiry to consider whether public bodies had neglected or covered up allegations of child sex abuse following claims paedophiles had operated in Westminster in the 1980s, is also due to set out how it will proceed.

A fresh statutory inquiry or a Royal Commission could be set up to continue the work.

Alison Millar, from the law firm Leigh Day, which is representing dozens of abuse victims, said the inquiry had been a “shambles”.

Asked what she wanted to see happen, she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Obviously, rebooting this inquiry so that it has a new head in terms of the chair and so it is reconstituted with statutory powers, I think that’s very important.

“There is, as far as I can tell, almost unanimous agreement that an inquiry of this nature requires the power to compel witnesses to attend and to require the production of documents.

“I think terms of reference and a structure that engages much better with abuse survivors and gives them the confidence that this inquiry will listen to them and learn from them.”

She added: “The people I represent have really been waiting a lifetime for an inquiry like this but have become increasingly sceptical that this inquiry is going to get to the fundamental truth given the shambles there has been in the over 200 days since it first set up.”

Ms Millar suggested a Royal Commission could be the way forward: “That is the scale of the problem and if we are going to do this we have got to do this properly.”

Former children’s minister Tim Loughton said the situation had become a “mess” but the inquiry had to happen.

The Tory MP told Today: “We have just got to park on one side that this could have been handled a lot better, the way it was established could have been rather more transparent.

“I think nobody should doubt the Home Secretary’s absolute sincerity and commitment that we should get to the bottom of what is a very long, complicated, historical sex abuse story.”

He added: “People’s confidence has been completely knocked because of this constant tsunami of historic cases coming out.

“We need to get to the bottom of it, we need to see where it went wrong, how society appears to have covered up, is that cover-up still happening in certain places, are people responsible for that cover-up still in places of responsibility and, ultimately, now we must be assured that we have a child protection system… that is fit for purpose.

“That’s why we need an over-arching inquiry on top of all these different reviews and prosecutions going on, which must continue to go on, and we have got to get this back on track.”

Clifford loses sentence challenge

Jimmy_max_and_gary

Disgraced PR guru Max Clifford has lost a challenge against his eight-year jail sentence for sex offences.

The sentence was upheld by three Court of Appeal judges in London today.

Clifford, 71, was jailed in May after being convicted of a string of indecent assaults, carried out between 1977 and 1984, using his celebrity connections to lure women.

The former celebrity agent, who branded his accusers “fantasists”, denied the charges, but was convicted at London’s Southwark Crown Court.

Announcing the appeal court’s decision, Lord Justice Treacy, who heard the case with Mr Justice Turner and Judge Michael Pert, said the sentence was “justified”.

At a recent appeal hearing, Clifford’s barrister Richard Horwell QC told the three judges that Clifford’s last offence was committed 29 years ago, “since when he has led an industrious life, and devoted a considerable part of his time to charitable works for which he has raised substantial funds”.

The trial judge had “accepted that he is no longer a danger to women and that he will not commit further offences”.

Mr Horwell said that for a number of reasons the sentence imposed was “too long”, adding: “Although the sentencing process must reflect modern attitudes, and I fully accept that that is our law, the sentencing process must not abandon common sense and fairness.”

Rosina Cottage QC, for the Crown, said the total sentence imposed was one the trial judge was “entitled to reach”.

When sentencing Clifford, Judge Anthony Leonard told him his personality and position in the public eye were the reasons his crimes were not revealed earlier.

He said: “The reason why they were not brought to light sooner was because of your own dominant character and your position in the world of entertainment which meant that your victims thought that you were untouchable, something that I think you too believed.”

He added: “These offences may have taken place a long time ago, when inappropriate and trivial sexual behaviour was more likely to be tolerated, but your offending was not trivial, but of a very serious nature.”

Clifford is currently serving his sentence at Littlehey Category C men’s prison in Cambridgeshire.

Announcing the court’s decision today, Lord Justice Treacy said: “It seems to us that, after consideration of the individual offences and the application of modern sentencing attitudes reflected in the guidelines, but tempered by the need to have regard to the statutory maximum available at the time, an overall sentence of eight years was justified and correct.”

It was a “just and proportionate” sentence “taking account of considerations of harm and culpability together with aggravating factors and such mitigation as was available to the appellant”.

Lord Justice Treacy said Clifford was sentenced to a total of eight years on eight counts of indecent assault relating to four victims who were “young and vulnerable” at the time of the offences.

He said: “Each was affected in respect of confidence and relationships and was harmed by what had been done to her.”

In considering the seriousness of any offence the court “must consider the offender’s culpability and any harm which the offence caused”.

The judge said: “Sexual offending will by its very nature cause harm at the time the offence is committed, but it is well recognised that for many victims significant harm persists for a considerable period afterwards.

“This is a case where it is clear that the effect of what was done to the victims was not something from which they recovered quickly.

“The appellant’s actions towards these victims had long term consequences for their lives. This is clearly a highly material circumstance for this court to consider.”

Jail Sex Abuse Claims Now Over 140

Paedophile Prison Officer Neville Husband
Paedophile Prison Officer Neville Husband

A police investigation into a young offenders’ centre in County Durham has now heard claims from more than 140 people that they were abused between the late 1960s and the mid-1980s.

Detectives announced in August they were starting a new investigation into allegations young men sent to Medomsley Detention Centre, near Consett, were abused by staff, which led to 83 people coming forward.

That number has now increased to 143 and police chiefs said detectives were left shaken by some of the accounts they heard.

Detective Superintendent Paul Goundry, of Durham Constabulary, said: “We said from the outset this was going to be a long and complex investigation which we fully expect will last at least another 12 months.

“So far we have been contacted by more than 140 former inmates of Medomsley, who have reported they were victims of either sexual or physical abuse at the centre between the late 1960s and the mid-1980s.

“The accounts we have heard have been horrific and have shaken some very experienced detectives who are working on this.

“It is obviously distressing to hear from so many victims, but at the same time I am relieved they have shown the confidence in us to get in touch and allow us to help them.

“Our efforts are directed not just at establishing what happened in Medomsley over that period but ensuring the victims are left in a better place and get the support and advice they need.”

In 2003, a previous police investigation called Operation Halter led to the conviction of Neville Husband, a prison officer at the centre.

Husband was initially jailed for eight years after being found guilty of abusing five youngsters.

The publicity surrounding the trial then led to others coming forward and Husband was subsequently jailed for a further two years for these attacks.

After being released from prison he died from natural causes in 2010.

Medomsley detention centre