Terra Nova school abuse: Teacher jailed for pupil sex assaults

Keith Cavendish-Coulson
Image caption Keith Cavendish-Coulson abused some victims during lessons

A former teacher has been jailed for sexually abusing 24 pupils at an independent boys school in Cheshire.

Keith Cavendish-Coulson, 71, pleaded guilty to 42 counts of indecent assault on boys aged eight to 13 at Terra Nova School near Holmes Chapel.

The abuse took place in dormitories, his private quarters and in classrooms during lessons between 1973 and 1975.

Cavendish-Coulson, of Crookham Common, Berkshire, was jailed for six years and nine months at Chester Crown Court.

'Open secret'

Described in court as a serial paedophile, Cavendish-Coulson, a former French teacher, also pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting a 12-year-old boy he privately tutored in the late 1980s.

The court heard he would befriend his victims at the boarding school and then molest them, sometimes in the presence of other children, and his activities were an open secret among the boys.

Sentencing him, Judge Roger Dutton said: "It is a sad reflection on the attitudes of that time that even when complaints were made by parents no proper action was taken to investigate these grave allegations."

Image copyright Google
Image caption The abuse took place at the school between 1973 and 1975

He said it "amounted to shameful and abject failure" to deal with serious sexual abuse.

"One cannot help but conclude that the reputation of the school meant more to those in authority than the exposure of wholesale sexual abuse by a member of staff on their premises."

'Predatory paedophile'

The authors of two victim impact statements said they had trouble forming relationships, suffered bouts of depression and continued to feel lingering resentment towards their parents who had left them in the care of a man who breached their trust and exploited their vulnerability.

Two separate police investigations into Cavendish-Coulson in 1998 and 2005 had stalled, the court heard, but he was eventually arrested in August 2013.

Cheshire Police later set up a dedicated hotline for victims to come forward.

Det Insp Steve Beddows said: "Cavendish-Coulson showed a blatant disregard for the pupils he was teaching − abusing his position of trust for his own sexual gratification."

He praised the victims for their bravery which had helped put a "prolific and predatory paedophile behind bars".

Martin Hallam, chairman of governors at Terra Nova School, said he offered a sincere and heartfelt apology to all of Cavendish-Coulson's victims and described his offences as "abhorrent and deplorable".

The school now operated a clear safeguarding policy "to help ensure that such behaviour cannot be repeated in this day and age", he said.

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