June 2003

Former teacher given eight years for attacks on boys

DEPRAVED teacher Peter Hamilton-Leggett lured young schoolboys into his bedroom before carrying out brutal sex attacks on them, a court heard.

The retired biology and chemistry teacher, of Old Station Lane, Yelverton, Devon, admitted 54 charges of abuse on boys as young as eight.

On Tuesday, some of the 58-year-old’s victims attended Swindon Crown Court and watched as he was sentenced to eight years in prison for the catalogue of sex offences.

It took more than an hour to read the charges, and, dressed in a suit, Hamilton-Leggett spoke only to confirm his name. His wife, Pauline, kept her eyes closed as the court heard details of each of his depraved acts. Thirteen former pupils of the Old Ride Preparatory School, Bradford on Avon, and six former pupils of Lambrook School in Bracknell, Berkshire, made complaints, dating back to a 15-year period between 1970 and 1985.

The paedophile investigation, headed by Det Sgt David Martin, is believed to be the biggest of its kind in the county.

It was the third investigation into the teacher’s sick behaviour the other two failed because of a lack of evidence.

Don Tait, prosecuting, said Hamilton-Leggett’s reign of terror began shortly after he started teaching at the Old Ride School, aged 26.

Preying on vulnerable, lonely pupils, he singled out his ‘favourites’ and would invite them back to his room offering them treats or telling them they could play on his computer. Once he had earned their trust he began systematically abusing them, playing what was described as a ‘bravery test game’, running his fingers down boys’ bodies until they told him to stop.

Mr Tait said: “His fingers passed below the boy’s throat and moved down his body, inviting the boy to say stop when his courage ran out.”

Unless a pupil resisted, Hamilton-Leggett’s behaviour would escalate, performing crude sex acts himself or he asked boys to gratify him.

Some victims were also pinned on the bed while the teacher seriously sexually assaulted them.

Mr Tait described one attack during a boy’s last day at Old Ride School. “The experience was incredibly painful, he kept thinking he was going to die,” he said. “Although he was crying the defendant carried on until he had his way.

“He then took him to meet his mother, wished him all the best for the future and nothing was said thereafter.”

Mr Tait said other victims described how Hamilton-Leggett had made them feel special until they asked him to stop, and how the teacher was respected and trusted by pupils, parents and staff.

He asked his victims to keep quiet about their agonising abuse.

Some of the offences had been carried out in rooms, corridors and dormitories when other teachers were near or, in one case, when one was banging on his door demanding to know what was happening.

Hamilton-Leggett had claimed he only realised such abuse was wrong when he saw a programmes on children made by Esther Rantzen and he then promptly stopped.

In 1985 he moved to a new school in Tavistock, Devon, where he taught without incident until retiring aged 57 in 2001.

Sentencing Hamilton-Leggett Judge Thomas Longbotham spoke of the lives he had ruined and how he had denied the abuse during two earlier investigations.

He said: “It is not an attractive form of behaviour an aggravating feature in this case particularly because you picked on vulnerable boys in boarding school.

“You also abused a position of trust.”

One victim, in a statement read to the court, told how he had turned to drink and even attempted suicide while trying to come to terms with his ordeal.

Others told police how the attacks had stopped them having normal relationships and how their experiences would stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Hamilton-Leggett was sentenced to eight years on each of seven counts of buggery and attempted buggery or assault and gross indecency.

All the sentences will run concurrently and he will be placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register indefinitely.