Boys in care home 'sexually assaulted at pyjama parties': Deputy headmaster at approved school accused of handing out money and privileges during 10-year reign of abuse

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The Independent Online
A DEPUTY headmaster at a children's home held regular late-night pyjama parties in his flat at which he sexually assaulted young boys in his care, a court was told yesterday.

Peter Howarth invited selected boys to the parties, held four times a week for 10 years at Bryn Estyn children's home, Wrexham, North Wales. They received money, weekend leave and other favours, Chester Crown Court was told.

Mr Howarth, 63, of Acton, Wrexham, denies nine charges of indecent assault and three other serious sexual offences alleged to have taken place when the parties were held between 1974 and 1984. He is now retired.

Paul Wilson, 44, a former senior residential child-care officer at the boys home run by Clwyd County Council, denies three charges of indecent assault.

John Griffith Williams QC, for the prosecution, said the two men took advantage of their positions of authority at the home, which was a 'quasi custodial' approved school closed in September 1984.

'Mr Howarth, as deputy headmaster, also used the implicit threat of refusing weekend leave for the boys as a means of overcoming their natural objections. Mr Wilson relied on his reputation as a disciplinarian.'

Mr Howarth operated what became known as 'the flat list' of boys who would go to the flat after supper, he said. The boys wore pyjamas, with underpants not allowed, while Howarth wore pyjamas and a short dressing gown.

He told police the boys were there for 'counselling sessions', but admitted there was 'horseplay' when boys would pull down each other's pyjama trousers. But he had not been involved in this and 'they would all have a big laugh'.

'There were occasions when one boy would be asked to stay behind, ostensibly to help cleaning up. It was then that Mr Howarth committed an indecent assault, telling the boy afterwards to say nothing,' Mr Griffith Williams said.

He said such attentions was not entirely unwelcome to some, bringing status and benefits of favouritism, weekend leaves, money, cigarettes and other favours. 'Established favourites would act as his caddie on the golf course.'

But each of the boys who complained had been traumatised, some more than others, by their experiences, the court was told.

To some of the vulnerable victims, many of whom had little or no family life, submission had seemed a safer course than complaining to others in authority and risking not being believed.

It was only when the police launched an investigation in 1991 that many of the allegations had come to light.

The trial continues today.

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