21 years for ex-headteacher jailed for child abuse

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The Independent Online

A former boarding school head who sexually and physically abused boy pupils during the late 1970s and early 1980s was today given a 21-year jail term.

Oxford-educated Derek Slade, 61, of Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, was convicted of more than 50 offences - including possessing pornographic images of children on a computer.

Judge Peter Fenn recommended that Slade should serve at least 14 years before being released on parole and pay £30,000 towards prosecution costs.

He said Slade's victims had "lost days of childhood innocence", been left with feelings of inadequacy, blame and worthlessness and become men whose "lives were seriously damaged".

A jury found Slade guilty of sexually assaulting and beating 12 boys aged between eight and 13 between 1978 and 1983 following a four-week trial at Ipswich Crown Court.

Jurors heard that Slade ran St George's private school, which was initially based in Wicklewood, Norfolk, then moved to Great Finborough, Suffolk, in 1980.

Prosecutors said Slade meted out "brutal" beatings. He had hit boys with a slipper, a table tennis bat and his bare hand, ordered youngsters to write about "whackings I have had" and given "kickings" to boys who upset him.

Boys had also been used as waiters at private dinners then "chosen" by Slade and his guests, jurors were told.

The court heard that most pupils were the sons of servicemen and women and pupil numbers rose from about 20 in 1978, when Slade and colleagues opened the school, to 350 in 1983, when Slade left.

Slade was arrested after former pupils complained two years ago. One victim said he had never told his parents what had happened. Another described Slade's assaults as "reigns of terror".

Several victims were in court for the sentencing hearing. Some wept and one applauded as Slade was led away. One victim said afterwards that the sentence was "good enough".

Slade admitted assault, indecent assault and child pornography offences. He denied other allegations of assault and indecent assault but was found guilty after a month-long trial.

He also admitted being a paedophile and told jurors that there was a sexual motive behind the corporal punishment he inflicted.

But he denied more serious sexual assaults, including prosecution allegations that he hosted "midnight feasts" after which boys would be abused.

The court heard that St George's had been in the spotlight in 1982 when the BBC Radio 4 Checkpoint programme reported on its harsh regime. School inspectors had investigated, made some criticisms but not substantiated the BBC's allegations.

"Whilst Slade may have committed these offences 30 years ago, for the victims their pain remains very real," said Detective Inspector Adrian Randall, who led the inquiry, after the hearing.

"I cannot begin to imagine how difficult it must have been for these men to come forward and try to make sense of what happened to them decades ago as defenceless young boys."

Detective Inspector Randall said around a dozen officers had worked on the inquiry for about 18 months - although he said he could not put a figure on the cost.

Sources said after the hearing that investigations were continuing and the "chapter was not closed".