December 2003

Deputy head attacked boys

A retired deputy head teacher from Cornwall has been found guilty of indecent assault against 23 small boys.

Joseph Denley was given a two-year suspended prison sentence by Judge Jeffrey Rucker at Truro Crown Court.

Denley had denied the charges of assaulting seven to 10-year-old boys at Marazion County Primary School over a 21-year period.

Denley, 79, who lives in Alma Road in Penzance, was found guilty of 41 counts of indecent assault against 23 boys.

He was originally charged with 48 counts of indecent assault against 26 young boys at the school, but he was acquitted of three cases earlier in the trial and was found not guilty on four counts.

During the case, former pupils told the court how they were assaulted by Denley who had put his hand inside their underpants when they were called to the front of the class.

The incidents are said to have happened between 1961 and 1982.

Judge Rucker told the pensioner the evidence against him had been “quite utterly overwhelming”.

He said: “You inflicted cruel forms of corporal punishment on your pupils.

“You regularly humiliated them and, in short, you ruled those seven to 10-year-olds with a rod of iron in a wholly inappropriate way and many of them spoke of living quite simply in fear of you.”

Breach of trust

He added: “This indictment shows that for the best part of 20 years you indecently assaulted male pupils.

“It was a grotesque breach of the trust imposed on you as a teacher.”

During the trial, prosecutor Ian Fenny said Denley “terrified” his young pupils with his verbal and physical bullying.

He would call them to the front of his class to have work checked and then put his hands down their trousers, the prosecutor said.

On other occasions Denley abused the boys at their desks, or took them into a separate “cubby hole” inside his pre-fabricated classroom.

‘Tragic case’

Judge Rucker said he had decided not to imprison Denley because of his age and fragile health.

He ordered Denley to pay £2,500 towards the prosecution costs within a year and to sign on the Sex Offenders’ Register for 10 years.

Cornwall County Council executive member for children and young people, Nigel Walker, said in a statement that it was a tragic case.

He said that, over the past 30 years, there had been a new emphasis given to child protection.

Mr Walker said that regrettably they could never prevent such events from taking place.

But he said in future there would be a clear duty on parents, governors and teachers to pass on information about suspicious behaviour which caused them concern