December 2000

Abuse appeal judgement reserved

The Court of Appeal has reserved judgment on a challenge by former Welsh Office social services inspector Derek Brushett.

H eis appealing against his conviction and 14-year jail sentence for abusing boys at an approved school where he was head teacher during the 1970s.

After two days of legal argument on the conviction appeal, the appeal judges asked to hear submissions relating to the length of Brushett’s sentence.

They then said they would give judgment on the “very anxious case” as soon as possible, without setting a date.

Brushett, 56, a father of four, was convicted in November last year of a catalogue of sexual and physical abuse on 17 boys, aged between 11 and 16, at Bryn-y-don approved school, Dinas Powys, near Cardiff, between 1974 and 1980.

He was acquitted on other charges.

His lawyers and supporters say he is an innocent victim of a “trawl” by police seeking evidence in their Operation Goldfinch inquiry into abuse at children’s homes in Wales.

They also claim that he was denied a fair trial because documents potentially vital to his defence were kept secret.

Brushett’s counsel, Diana Cotton QC, also argued that there were glaring inconsistencies in the evidence given by the complainants.

These discrepancies were not adequately dealt with by the trial judge in his summing-up to the jury at Cardiff Crown Court, she said.

On the question of sentence, she claimed 14 years was excessive in the light of guidelines laid down in previous cases.

She pointed out that Brushett, who had worked at other schools without any complaints being made against him, had “spent a lifetime of service in the community”.

Following his arrest, the Welsh Office held an independent inquiry into his conduct and reported that he was highly regarded by colleagues and managers, who were surprised by the nature of the allegations made against him because they found him to be a “sound professional”.

In his local community, Brushett was very well thought of, said Miss Cotton. There was nothing to suggest he was a continuing danger to the public, she said.

Lord Justice Otton – sitting with Mr Justice Douglas Brown and Judge Stephens QC – said the court had received a mass of letters from Brushett’s friends and supporters.

He stressed that the court had to decide the issue of conviction on the basis of the evidence, but would read the letters in considering the matter of sentence.