Ex-head jailed for sex attacks

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A retired primary school headteacher who committed a string of sex assaults on young boys, including while claiming to be checking if they had wet the bed on camping trips, was jailed for seven years today.

Neil Dyer, 71, carried out the abuse while head of Widey Court Primary School in Plymouth between 1975 and 1992, including episodes during camping trips in Cornwall and in private lessons with individual young pupils.

He was caught after several of his victims swapped their memories of the abuse on Facebook and got in touch with police.

The teacher, called Geoffrey Burley at the time of the attacks, denied 28 charges of attacks carried out on 13 boys, one girl and a 19-year-old soldier, saying that any touching had been innocent and accidental.

But he was convicted of 25 charges after the jury heard evidence against him from several of his former pupils and the soldier.

Passing sentence, Judge Paul Darlow said: "These crimes were hurtful, upsetting and humiliating for those who had to endure them.

"They were carried out with callous and casual disregard for the children's wellbeing, for your own sexual gratification."

During the three-week trial, many of Dyer's victims, now middle-aged men, gave evidence of how he mistreated them when they were 10 and 11.

One of them was abused shortly after his father died in a car crash and his mother lay seriously ill in hospital, when Dyer was acting as a surrogate parent. Only one of his victims ever told anyone in authority and was not believed, the court heard.

Andrew MacFarlane, prosecuting, said the abuse victims were still suffering from the effect of abuse by the "prolific offender". The soldier, who had been plied with drink by the teacher until he passed out and was then attacked, still suffers physical pain from his injuries almost two decades later.

Several of the young boys were assaulted during a school camp at Maker in East Cornwall, when some of whom were on their first trip away from home without their parents. The girl was assaulted during a private tuition lesson at Dyer's home.

"It is in all manner of ways that people have suffered as a result of the defendant's activities," Mr MacFarlane said.

"There are those who have suffered in terms of their sexual relationships.

"There are witnesses who regret greatly that they did not come forward before. They fear that people have suffered as a consequence."

The court heard that Dyer also served a prison term for embezzlement after inventing a class of students at the primary school in the 1980s and pocketing the cash from the local education authority.

David Batcup, representing Dyer, said his client had committed "a gross and serious breach of trust" but said that all but a handful of the cases involved "a single instance of relatively minor touching".

"This is a man who had a teaching career lasting from 1959 to 1992," he said.

"Much can be said of what good he did as a headmaster. We even heard from some of the witnesses some of the positive aspects he had."

Dyer, of Stokes Lane, Plymouth, remained impassive in the dock as sentence was passed. Many of his victims' families were in tears.

Judge Darlow told him: "There is a consistent thread running through the evidence of the fear in which you were held by your pupils.

"You were aware of this fear and used it to your own advantage. You had an arrogant confidence that no child would speak up and, if they did, you could lie your way out of it."

Speaking afterwards, relatives of some of Dyer's victims spoke out about his behaviour, saying he was such a bully that even staff had been afraid to speak out about his behaviour.

One said: "The sentence was not long enough. He should die in prison and then rot in hell."