October 1996

Headmaster given 18 months for spanking pupils

A HEADMASTER who performed secret spankings on girl pupils for over 20 years was jailed for 18 months yesterday.

Kenneth Watson, 46, was allowed to continue working despite an official warning about his behaviour and carried out a further two attacks, Carlisle Crown Court was told.

A diocesan adviser visited the Roman Catholic primary school, where Watson also served as a child protection officer, after accusations by a pupil.

Watson claimed to be shocked by the allegation that he had indecently smacked the girl and the matter was not pursued, but he was warned about the possibility of dismissal if there were further incidents.

He was arrested four months later, in February this year, after committing two further offences.

As a result of publicity, 25 former pupils whose ages spanned three decades were to come forward and make allegations against him.

Watson, of Washington, Tyne and Wear, who is married with two children, admitted 11 specimen charges of indecent assault on girls aged nine to 15 at three schools in South Tyneside where he worked from the 1970s.

A further four counts of similar offences involving boys were denied and allowed to remain on the file.

Paddy Cosgrove, QC, for Watson, said: “One worrying aspect is that if the diocesan adviser who went to see him in Oct 1995 remembers the incident as he says, then surely he and the local education authority were derelict in their duty by not taking this further.”

The court was told that Watson gained no sexual gratification from what he did, but this was refuted by his victims. One told how she was made to wear a red gymslip when he smacked her and the garment was found by police in his office.

Other were spanked when he lifted up their skirts while they were alone in classrooms with him.

On three occasions he pulled down girls’ knickers and hit them on their bare buttocks. Psychiatrists said his problems were rooted in his childhood.

Judge Alastair Bell told Watson: “This was a gross breach of trust.”

Watson’s wife, Kay, 43, is also a teacher and the only daughter of Judge William Hannah, who sits at Newcastle Crown Court. She is standing by her husband.

Police were alerted after a passing comment by a 10-year-old victim to her mother and another girl from the same school came forward after publicity.

After the hearing, one of the three women who gave evidence claiming that they had been assaulted by Watson while schoolgirls said she could not believe his sentence.

“All along he has shown no remorse at all for what he has done,” she said.

In a statement, the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle said: “The Church strives in every one of its schools to provide the safest environment for the education and care of its children.”