May 2002

TV gardener jailed for indecent assault

A former TV gardener has been jailed for two and a half years for indecent assault.

Dennis Cornish was convicted four weeks ago at Exeter Crown Court of sexually abusing a 21-year-old man with learning difficulties.

The 61-year-old gardener had admitted sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy while he was a 25-year-old assistant scoutmaster.

Dennis Cornish befriended the 15 to 20-year-olds, who had learning difficulties, and gave some of them part-time jobs at his garden centre.

Exeter Crown Court was told the assaults took place in his car and in a private room at a shop in the Four Cross garden centre near Torbay, Devon.

Judge Graham Cottle told Cornish: “There has lurked behind the veneer of your apparent genial respectability a dark secret.

“It has now surfaced and led you to where you are now.

“You have been convicted of indecently assaulting an unfortunate and disadvantaged young man and this represents a considerable breach of the trust placed in you by both him and his parents.

“Having had the advantage of listening to the evidence I am left in no doubt that I should use my powers to protect young people from you.”

Cornish had claimed he was tricked into confessing to abusing two boys when interviewed by police just days after coming off anti-depressants.

Sex Register

He said he had abruptly stopped taking medication three days before the police interview and was in a confused mental state when he made his confession.

After the initial accusations a man came forward claiming that he too had been sexually abused by Cornish in the 1960s.

The jury also heard how Cornish had lost his job with Carlton Westcountry Television because of the allegations against him.

Cornish was placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register.