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Norfolk headmaster did not run 'school from hell'

PUBLISHED: 07:00 01 September 2010 | UPDATED: 11:36 16 September 2010

Derek Slade during his days at St George's School

Derek Slade during his days at St George's School

Adam Gretton

A former Norfolk headmaster accused of sexually abusing and beating boys in his care did not run 'the school from hell', his defence said yesterday .

Closing statements were made in the trial of Derek Slade, who is accused of sexually and physically assaulting pupils at St George's School in Wicklewood, near Wymondham, and later in Great Finborough, near Stowmarket, between 1978 and 1983.

A former Norfolk headmaster accused of sexually abusing and beating boys in his care did not run “the school from hell”, his defence said yesterday .

Closing statements were made in the trial of Derek Slade, who is accused of sexually and physically assaulting pupils at St George's School in Wicklewood, near Wymondham, and later in Great Finborough, near Stowmarket, between 1978 and 1983.

The 61-year-old, of Burton-on-Trent, denies six counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, five counts of indecent assault, and four counts of serious sexual assault.

He has pleaded guilty to 15 counts of indecent assault and four counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The prosecution yesterday likened St George's to a “prison” for the boys who were allegedly abused at the boarding school, where pupils were excessively beaten during corporal punishment sessions and fights were arranged between students. Letters home were intercepted and phone calls were monitored, it is claimed.

Andrew Thompson, for the prosecution, told the jury that Slade was an “intelligent, manipulative, and hypocritical liar and paedophile” who had a “very unhealthy sexual interest” in boys aged between eight and 11 years.

He added that the authorities at the time had missed an opportunity to put things right when allegations first hit the headlines of abuse at the boarding school in 1982 following a BBC investigation. However, a government inspection found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Mr Thompson said it was “curious” that the defendant did not have any teacher training qualifications and that Slade had been “embarrassed” to mention to the court that he begun a doctorate in the “role of punishment in the upbringing of children at home and at school” whilst at Oxford University.

Gregory Perrins, for the defence said St George's was not a Dickensian institution and former teachers had described it as “positive and cheerful”.

“This was not a school run by fear or a tyrannical regime where pupils had no one to talk to and staff were incapable of speaking out. It was not the horror place the prosecution suggests it was,” he said.

He said that whilst some of Slade's actions had been “utterly monstrous”, he had gone no further than excessive corporal punishment and rubbing students' on their bare backsides afterwards.

Mr Perrins added that claims of midnight feasts where the headmaster seriously sexually abused selected pupils were an “elaborate fabrication” by a few individuals attempting to “obscure the truth.”

Judge Peter Fenn is set to sum up the case today before sending out the jury of ten women and two men to consider their verdicts.

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