Devon

Ex-Jackanory presenter John Earle jailed for sex assaults on boy

John Earle Image copyright Devon and Cornwall Police
Image caption John Earle "used a young child to satisfy his sexual needs"

A former children's television presenter has been jailed for sexually assaulting a young boy almost 60 years ago.

Former Jackanory storyteller John Earle admitted indecently assaulting the boy from when he was nine years old.

Earle, 87, was a teacher at a school in Okehampton, Devon, when he carried out the assaults between 1957 and 1961.

His victim Iain Peters, now aged 69, said the historic abuse had "blighted his life".

He was jailed for four years and will sign the sex offenders register.

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Earle admitted six counts of indecent assault on the boy while working as deputy head teacher at Upcott House Preparatory School.

'Urgent social problem'

Image caption John Earle was a TV presenter in the 1960s and 1970s, and is seen here presenting from the climbing wall at Oakehampton Community College

Speaking after the verdict his victim Mr Peters said "the burden of shame had been lifted" after coming forward.

He described to police how he was taken from his bed in a dormitory at the school into the private room of Earle and forced to engage in sexual activity.

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.

Mr Peters thanked police and said counselling since he came forward as has enabled him to "live freely for the first time since I was nine years old".

He called child sex abuse "an urgent social problem".

"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," he added.

Image caption He presented a programme called The River in 1971, about the River Dart

Who is John Earle?

  • Earle, who started his television career on a show called Treasure House, then worked on the BBC children's science programme Tom-Tom.
  • He was on TV in the 1960s and 1970s.
  • His appearances as a Jackanory storyteller marked the end of his television career.
  • In the intervening years he has written books about Dartmoor and ran an expedition centre there, becoming an expert on trekking on the moors.
  • 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.

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."

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