Sunday, 19 May 2019

Former headteacher guilty of abuse

A FORMER headteacher of Woodcote Primary School has been found guilty of grooming and sexually abusing two young girls.

A FORMER headteacher of Woodcote Primary School has been found guilty of grooming and sexually abusing two girls and downloading child pornography.

Christopher Field was convicted of two counts of sexual assault on his victims, who were aged under 13, and a third of making indecent images of a child following a 13-day trial at Oxford Crown Court.

Field, 47, of Green Lane, Chieveley, was due to appear in court again today (Friday).

The offences took place between September 2010 and December 2012 while he was working at the school.

Field told one of his victims she was a “special girl” and gave her gifts taken from the school’s lost property cupboard.

He also hugged and cuddled her before this progressed to touching her in an inappropriate manner on several occasions.

The girl told the court she initially considered him to be her “boyfriend” and enjoyed the attention.

Later she felt uncomfortable as she realised what had happened and she experienced emotional problems.

In September 2014, the girl finally told her father and he called the police.

Field, who by then had been appointed headteacher of Kennet Valley Primary School in Calcot, was arrested at his home.

When interviewed under caution, he denied there had ever been concerns about his behaviour during his 17-year teaching career but officers found a complaint that he touched a girl inappropriately had been made.

This was dealt with internally and the matter was dismissed after everyone concerned agreed it had been a “misunderstanding”.

Soon after police discovered this, the second girl came forward, saying Field had repeatedly touched and squeezed her thigh between September and November 2012.

Officers seized Field’s home computer and found 13 indecent videos of young girls in his recycle bin.

His search history included references to “Lolita”, “pre-teen models” and “schoolgirls”.

Field said he hadn’t told police about the previous complaint as he feared they would consider him guilty. He denied assaulting either girl and said the images must have been downloaded by another member of his family.

He told the court his approach to teaching was “fairly tactile” but he never behaved inappropriately and couldn’t have committed the assaults as he would have been working.

However, a former staff member at Woodcote primary told jurors she had been concerned about a group of girls that he would pay attention to and “giggle and flirt” with.

A former pupil of Goring Primary School, where Field was deputy head before moving to Woodcote primary in 2007, testified that he had once rubbed the back of her thigh, making her feel  uncomfortable.

The court heard the indecent images were downloaded late at night and whoever was responsible also looked at adult chat and dating sites.

They were deleted on a weekday morning when forms signed by Field showed he was on paternity leave from work.

Dc Sarah Berry, of Thames Valley Police’s child abuse investigation unit, said: “This was a difficult case in which two young girls who did not understand what was happening at the time were groomed and abused.

“They have shown great courage in coming forward. Both have been consistent and have shown great determination in giving their evidence at court.

“I am sad for them that Field did not admit his guilt and thereby could have spared them the pain of reliving the ordeal in court.”

The jury failed to reach a verdict on a further count of sexual assault on a child under 13 and another of causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity.

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