Sussex

Dead man's child sexual abuse convictions overturned

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

Appeal judges have overturned the child sex abuse conviction of a former Sussex boarding school worker who killed himself before the end of his trial.

Darren Turk, 54, died last June, a day before jurors at Lewes Crown Court convicted him of a string of offences.

Mr Turk's family criticised the decision to allow verdicts after his death and said he was innocent.

Sir Brian Leveson said there was nothing to suggest the verdicts were unsafe but they were "irregular".

Mr Turk was accused of offences against boys aged between 11 and 15 at Frewen College, Northiam, between 1996 and 2002.

He was a member of care staff and later head of care at the boarding school, and at the time of his death worked as an electrician's assistant.

The jury convicted him of 10 offences and cleared him of six.

'Victims still vindicated'

Three appeal judges said the verdicts were wrongfully returned and must be set aside, with the convictions annulled.

Sitting with Mr Justice Jay and Mr Justice Garnham, Sir Brian said: "In our judgement, there is no discretion as to the course which the judge should follow in these circumstances.

"He was not entitled to continue simply because he thought that obtaining verdicts from the jury justified that course."

He also said the judges recognised for the victims, the pronouncement of the verdicts, at least in certain cases, was a vindication of their evidence.

"Nothing we decide in any sense should be taken as removing their appropriate feelings of vindication," he said.

The proceedings were brought by Mr Turk's mother, Jasmine Botting, 76, from Etchingham, who previously said: "I know for a fact that my son is innocent."

In January , a coroner concluded Mr Turk took his own life.

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