Sussex

Appeal court judges urged to review sex-abuse conviction

Frewen College in Northiam Image copyright Oast House Archive
Image caption Turk was convicted of historical abuse offences at Frewen College

Appeal judges have been urged to overturn the conviction of a former boarding school worker found guilty of child sex abuse after his suicide.

Darren Turk, 54, hanged himself while on trial accused of 16 offences against boys at Frewen College in Northiam, East Sussex, between 1996 and 2002.

He was found guilty of 10 out of the 16 offences.

Judges reserved their decision after hearing an application for permission to appeal against the conviction.

Unmarried Turk is understood to have been the first person in England to be convicted of offences following their death.

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He was a member of care staff and later head of care at the boarding school, but was not a teacher.

The appeal case - at the Court of Appeal's criminal division in London, was brought by his mother Jasmine Botting, 76, from Etchingham, who has maintained his innocence.

Sally-Ann Hales QC, representing Mrs Botting, told Sir Brian Leveson, Mr Justice Jay and Mr Justice Garnham, that the application concerned the effect of her son's death on criminal proceedings in the crown court "and in particular the validity of guilty verdicts returned by the jury after his death".

She submitted that criminal proceedings should abate on the death of an accused at whatever stage the trial has reached.

Sir Brian said the case raised a "really important issue of criminal law".

'Matter of criminal law'

He said: "We can recognise that for the victims, the pronouncement of the verdicts, at least in certain cases, was a vindication of their evidence."

But he emphasised: "Nothing we decide in any sense should be taken as removing their appropriate feelings of vindication."

The question the court had to decide was whether "as a matter of criminal law and practice, it is either justifiable or right that once a defendant has died the case should continue in any form".

The judges reserved their decision, which will be given on a date to be announced.

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