April 2017

BBC Jackanory presenter from Devon jailed for historical child sex abuse

A former BBC Jackanory storyteller from Devon has been jailed for a series of sexual assaults on a young boy nearly 60 years ago.

John Earle, 87, who narrated two Jackanory stories in 1971 and presented programmes for youngsters in the 1960s and 1970s, was deputy headteacher at a school in Okehampton, Devon when he carried out the attacks on a boy there who was just nine when his ordeal began.

At Exeter Crown Court today, Earle, who admitted six counts of indecent assault at an earlier hearing, was sentenced to four years in prison and ordered to sign the sex offenders register for life.

The court heard the victim was subjected to the abuse between 1957 and 1961 at Upcott House Preparatory School.

Sentencing Earle, Judge Erik Salomonsen said: “This was a gross breach of trust.

“You used a young child to satisfy your sexual needs on many occasions.

“It was your responsibility to educate and protect him.”

Alison Longhorn, from the CPS, said: “John Earle took advantage of his young victim for his own sexual gratification. He was charged with serious and prolonged abuse against one of the very people he had a duty of care for in his role as deputy head teacher. We worked closely with the police to build a strong case and faced with the evidence against him, Earle pleaded guilty.

“Earle’s offending has had a lifelong impact on his victim, to whom I would like to express my appreciation. Without him this prosecution would not have been possible. He has displayed immense courage during the investigation and prosecution of this case and I hope the sentence imposed today brings him some comfort.

“These offences took place more than 50 years ago but regardless of when crimes are committed the CPS will always prosecute when there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to do so.”

Police have welcomed the jailing of the former School teacher and TV presenter for the sexual assault on a boy 60 years ago.

Speaking after the verdict his victim Iain Peters, now aged 69, said the historic abuse had ‘blighted his life’ but ‘the burden of shame had been lifted’ after coming forward.

The court heard that the Mr Peters came to Upcott House Preparatory School for boys as a boarder at aged nine in 1957.

He described to police how he was taken from his bed in the dormitory into the private room of Earle and forced to engage in sexual activity. Mr Earle also took the boy to his boat moored at Dartmouth where further sexual offences were committed.

The abuse continued on a regular basis throughout the victim’s time at the school until he left in 1962, aged 14. The school closed shortly after the victim left.

Earle was well known in the mountaineering community and he was an adventure cameraman making films of his expeditions to the Himalayas, Baffin Island and South America.

This work led him into a career with the BBC, presenting the children’s show ‘Tom Tom’ in the 1970s. He also presented a number of episodes of the popular children’s storytelling show ‘Jackanory’, also in the 70s.

After the case Mr Peters described how the abuse had affected his whole life and he praised the police for their work which had allowed him to begin to come to terms with what had happened to him.

Mr Peters said: “The terrible burden of shame which caused me pain and blighted my life for 60 years has now been lifted. My sincere thanks to all those who have supported me to reach this outcome.

“While this case dealt with child sexual abuse committed a long time ago, there are far too many vulnerable children being still abused today and we – as a society- must work harder to stop this. The issue needs to be pressed as an urgent social problem with profound consequences. We have to try to understand why abusers pervert sexual power and do such terrible damage to children.

“I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to all of the police who worked on this case and I thank them for the superbly professional and sensitive way they treated me at all stages of the proceedings. Given how severely under-resourced this vital public service is, the police officers who investigated the crimes committed against me did a truly great job.

“Once I reported the abuse I suffered, I was able to go through expert counselling which transformed my life. Counselling allowed me to understand what had been done to me, so that after decades of painful shame and guilt I am now able to live freely for the first time since I was nine-years-old.

“I would assure other victims who want to come forward that the police were brilliantly supportive and that professional help can be hugely liberating for survivors of child sex abuse.”

March 2017

Ex-Jackanory presenter admits child sex abuse charge

A former children’s television presenter and Jackanory storyteller has admitted sexually assaulting a boy almost 60 years ago.

Author and Dartmoor expert John Earle was a teacher at a private preparatory school in Okehampton when he carried out the assaults between 1957 and 1961.

The school closed in the early 1960s and he went on to present a short lived children’s programme called Treasure House between 1964 and 1965.

He became a familiar figure on television in the late 1960s as co-presenter of the science show Tom-Tom from 1965 to 1970, where one of the other stars was a young Jan Leeming.

Earle went on to narrate two Jackanory stories during the show’s heyday in 1971, where other storytellers included Spike Milligan, Roy Kinnear, Brian Blessed and Milo O’Shea.

The Jackanory appearances marked the end of his broadcasting career and he moved on to buy a farm on Dartmoor which he converted into a moorland exploration centre with bunk rooms.

He ran the Dartmoor Expedition Centre at Rowden Farm, near Widecombe-in-the-Moor until it was sold last year, hosting countless groups of teenagers who were undertaking adventures with the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, the Princes Trust, and the Ten Tors challenge.

He became one of the leading experts on trekking on the moors and wrote guides entitled Walking on Dartmoor, Walking on Exmoor and the Quantocks, A Boot up Dartmoor Tors and A Boot up Dartmoor Rivers.

Earle, aged 87, now of Upton Pyne, near Exeter, admitted six counts of indecently the same boy when he was aged nine to 13 between September 1957 and August 1961.

Three other offences are not being pursued.

The case at Exeter Crown Court was adjourned by Judge Mr Justice Dingemans so his defence barrister Mr Nicolas Gerasimidis can obtain medical reports.

The judge told him: ’All sentencing options, including immediate imprisonment, will be available to the court.’

He ordered Earle to sign on the sex offenders’ register immediately. He ordered the probation service to prepare a pre-sentence report.

Mr Richard Crabb, prosecuting, said the victim had been consulted and Earle’s pleas are acceptable.

Mr Gerasimidis said: ’We are in the process of obtaining medical records. The defendant has a number of underlying conditions, principally related to his old age.’

Earle was a teacher and deputy head at Upcott House Preparatory School in Okehampton at the time when the offences were committed against a boy aged nine to 13.

The school, with 53 pupils, was owned and run by his father at the time but later merged with another school and moved to Highampton, near Okehampton, before closing.

The building which housed it is now a country house bed and breakfast and some of its former grounds are now a supermarket. 

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