January 2018

Croydon headmaster spared jail for abusing teenage boy

A former headmaster, honoured for his services to young people, has been spared jail after admitting sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy.

In August 2016 retired John Coatman, 76, was found guilty of gross indecency for an offence committed in the 1970s.

His conviction had been thrown out by the Court of Appeal last April because of an error on his charge sheet.

When the case returned to the Old Bailey for a retrial he pleaded guilty to a charge of indecent assault.

Coatman, of Leyburn Gardens, Croydon, south London, was sentenced by Judge Anne Molyneux to 21 months imprisonment, suspended for two years.

He was also made subject to a 12-month supervision order.

The court heard that the teenager would visit Coatman’s home, where they would engage in “rough and tumble”, which later took a sexual turn as the adult touched the boy over his clothes.

Matters escalated when, on three separate occasions, the pair undressed in Coatman’s bedroom and the head teacher touched the boy sexually.

The defendant was headteacher of St Andrew’s secondary school in Croydon, but the complainant was not a pupil there.

Coatman retired in 1998 after 42 years as a teacher and was awarded an MBE in 2012.

Prosecutor Mark Trafford QC told the Old Bailey: “The defendant’s MBE for services to young people was something that he (the complainant) found difficult to comprehend under the circumstances.”

Claims against Coatman, who has inoperable cancer, surfaced in 2014.

In a victim impact statement, the complainant said the incidents had left him with emotional and relationship difficulties.

Sentencing, Ms Molyneux said: “You were in a position of considerable trust, and he trusted you. He enjoyed being with you over a short period of time.”

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