May 2017

School welfare officer jailed for abusing pupil over nine years

A former member of staff at a Kirklees residential school has been jailed for five years for sexual abuse of a boy over nine years.

Peter Denton, now 64, was principal residential child welfare officer at Combs Hill School in Hall Lane, Thornhill, Dewsbury when he committed the offences against the victim many years ago.

A jury at Leeds Crown Court found Denton unanimously guilty last week on five charges of indecent assault and one of assaulting the boy causing him actual bodily harm.

Sentencing him today (Monday) Judge Guy Kearl QC said Denton was in a senior management position when he breached the trust placed in him to effectively act as a parent to the complainant.

He was about eight or nine years old when the sexual abuse began after Denton had “groomed and physically assaulted him on one occasion.”

Judge Kearl said the boy was vulnerable coming from a background of neglect “and you took advantage of his vulnerability.”

The assault involved punching the boy in the stomach “not serious in itself but it formed part of the process which then enabled you to sexually abuse him without fear of discovery, it was in effect to ensure his silence thereafter.”

The judge said during the remainder of the boy’s time at the school, some six to seven years, Denton had touched the youngster sexually on occasions and an occasion performed oral sex on him in a bath.

The judge said when the boy reached 15 Denton had taken the boy to his home and again touched him after lying him on a bed and rubbing against him.

He said it was an aggravating feature that this happened at a residential school attended by children who needed assistance because of their situation.

Judge Kearl said he accepted Denton, who now lives at North Choppington in Northumberland, had no other convictions and since leaving Combs Hill had made a positive contribution to society. He also had some health difficulties but there had to be a jail term.

“These offences lay hidden for many years although they were always there in the complainant’s mind,” the judge added.

Matthew Harding, representing Denton, said after he left Combs Hill he had set up his own business which was very successful, subsequently becoming chairman of the British Costume Association.

He had also continued his work with the Scout Association “so he has achieved a great deal in his life. Prison will not be a pleasant experience for him.”

Last year a former teacher at Combs Hill, Steven Scholes of Newsome, Huddersfield was jailed for sex offences including some at the school.

 

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