February 2021

Former Shipley headmaster jailed for indecent assaults on six young girls

The former headteacher of a primary school in the Bradford district has been jailed for indecently assaulting six young children.

The judge in the case commended a group of women who had to wait four years to see their allegations proved and their abuser jailed.

Damian Cheshire, the former headmaster at St Anthony’s Primary School in Shipley, was finally locked up yesterday after a jury convicted him in December of indecently assaulting the six young girls in the 1970s and 80s.

Bradford Crown Court heard how Cheshire, who will be 79 next week, put his hand up the victims’ skirts and touched them indecently on a number of occasions.

Today, the Recorder of Bradford Judge Richard Mansell QC said Cheshire’s active role in the community and particularly the church had given him “the perfect cover” for his abuse of the girls for his own sexual gratification.

“This was a gross abuse of the trust place in you by the victims’ parents who trusted you implicitly and expected you to care for and nurture their young daughters not to touch them sexually,” the judge told Cheshire.

Cheshire, of Meadowcroft Close, Bradford, was convicted following a two-week trial in December and Judge Mansell QC apologised to the victims who took part in today’s video-linked hearing for the delay in sentencing their abuser.

But he also commended the women for having the courage to come forward and maintain their accounts despite the delay between the allegations coming to light in 2016 and the case reaching a conclusion.

Cheshire, who is now in poor health due to a variety of medical conditions, was found guilty on nine charges of indecent assault relating to six complainants and was jailed for four years.

Barrister Richard Wright QC, for Cheshire, said his conviction had led to the end of his marriage and, other than his children, his family had effectively turned their backs on him.

Judge Mansell QC said Cheshire would have to sign with the police as a sex offender for the rest of his life and he also imposed a restraining order which bans him from having any contact with the victims.

The Judge said: “The victims of your offending have had to live with the consequences of your actions for the same length of time, and for a period of up to four years since they brought matters to light, due to you having consistently denied the allegations and forced each one of them to go through the ordeal of giving evidence at trial.”