Great Britain

Bravery of women who brought former headmaster Damian Cheshire to justice is praised

THE jailing of a former headteacher who was convicted of indecently assaulting six young girls in the 1970s and 80s has been welcomed by a former pupil.

Bradford Crown Court heard how Cheshire, now 79, put his hands up the victims’ skirts and touched them indecently on a number of occasions – his active role in the community and particularly the church giving him the “perfect cover” for his abuse.

Mr Stead, a businessman who now lives in Guernsey, was a pupil at the school and has praised the bravery of the women who highlighted their harrowing experiences to bring Cheshire to justice.

He told the T&A: “The women who brought this action against this [man] need to be applauded, commended and lauded for making a warranted, desperately needed and unimaginably unpleasant effort by facing their historic demons.

"Waking those sleeping dogs can’t have been easy and reliving the harrowing experiences of repeated sexual assault some forty-five to fifty years ago is an example of bravery most would fortunately never have to test themselves with. These women are the gold standard and as a community we need to let them know we think that.”

Mr Stead, who was not a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of Cheshire, said he was “delighted” that justice has been served, but disappointed it had taken so long.

“He’s had a life he didn’t deserve, cloaked in respectability and a reputation of being an ex-headmaster and the social approval and acceptance that brings,” he said.

“We can do nothing about that. He’s eighty years old and will hopefully/probably die in prison which I believe would be a fitting end for this beast.”

Mr Stead claimed Cheshire’s disciplinary methods went too far and said: “It seemed to be the accepted and unquestioned norm.”

He added: “Cheshire was the ever-devoted catholic and would regularly attend church and other extracurricular church activities.

“Obviously he was hiding under a cloak of false piety, respectability and perceived good intention when all the while his actions belied the fact that he was in fact a beast walking amongst innocent young primary school children.

“Bigger questions need to be asked about how he got away with it for so long? It’s good news that he faces some justice while still alive and compos mentis but too little too late for any one of us whom his despicable actions affected.”

Cheshire was convicted following a two-week trial in December and found guilty on nine charges of indecent assault relating to six complainants.

He was jailed for four years and ordered to sign with police as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Sentencing him, the Recorder of Bradford Judge Richard Mansell QC, said: “The victims of your offending have had to live with the consequences of your actions for the same length of time, and for a period of up to four years since they brought matters to light, due to you having consistently denied the allegations and forced each one of them to go through the ordeal of giving evidence at trial.”

He said Cheshire had displayed a “gross abuse" of trust.

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