DISGRACED former headmaster Roland Wright is today starting an eight year prison sentence for abusing young boys at his school over a period of more than a decade.
Now aged 83, the former head at Caldicott Preparatory School in Farnham Common was told he used the ‘vulnerable’ pupils “on a whim” to satisfy his sexual desires.
Having committed the offences between 1959 and 1970 Wright evaded justice until jurors at Amersham Crown Court convicted him of ten counts of indecent assault on a male and two of indecency with a child at a trial which ended in December.
The offences were carried out against five former pupils at the school.
Wright, of Crown Lane, Farnham Royal, had been due to be sentenced alongside his former colleague Hugh Henry.
The 82-year-old, of Pomeroy Close, Amersham, was killed by a train on Tuesday. DS Joseph Banfield, who led the investigation into the offences, confirmed Henry’s identity to the court and said an inquest was due to be opened today.
Wright, who entered the court with the aid of two sticks and listened to proceedings via a hearing loop, was cleared of three further offences at a previous trial. He was convicted at a retrial after a previous jury were unable to reach verdicts.
Many of his victims and their families were present at a packed courtroom today to hear sentence being passed, with Wright being given a seat near the witness stand as the dock was filled by reporters covering the hearing.
Judge Johanna Cutts accepted many people – including some of his victims – had spoken in positive terms about Wright being an inspirational teacher and about his character.
But she said: “It’s obvious the boys were vulnerable. They were cared for exclusively at the school. Their parents entrusted their welfare to the school. Great trust was placed in you, yet you abused that trust.
“Far from protecting and nurturing the boys, you used them on a whim for what you wanted, regardless of the impact on them.
“You could have been a force only for good in their lives. But there was a darker side to your tuition of these boys.
“It is difficult to think of a more serious breach of trust.”
The judge said Wright would invite the boys back to his room near their dormitory, where he would commit sex acts on them. On one occasion one of the pupils was given whiskey to drink, she said.
Judge Cutts said Wright took advantage of the fact his room was so far from other members of staff and so close to the dormitories to create his “own little fiefdom” from which he would abuse the pupils.
A police investigation started in 2001 but a court action two years later was stayed by an abuse of process, Judge Cutts said.
Five of his victims had been prepared to give evidence, she said, but in the meantime a further five came forward. All spoke at the latest trial.
Judge Cutts said: “For many years many kept their silence and no doubt you hoped they always would. Boys felt they could never tell their parents, who felt they were doing right by sending them to the school.
“No man should feel guilt or feel he was complicit in any way.
“It is clear your conduct has had a lasting effect on them. Your offending has affected the confidence of some and the ability of others to form lasting relationships.”
Wright was jailed for a total of eight years, given a lifelong ban from working with children and told he will remain on the Sex Offenders’ Register for the rest of his life.
Defending Wright, Jane Bickerstaff said: “Everything he worked so hard to build up over the decades that he was involved with in the different capacities at Caldicott School; the reputation of the school and its success which went hand in hand with the defendant’s personal reputation and achievements, is all wiped out by the verdicts of the jury.
“That is the hardest blow to a man like this defendant; who, whatever else he did, he dedicated his life to building that school and its reputation, thereby giving an awful lot of people a good start in life.”
Henry’s counsel, Terry Munyard, said: “In the 50 years since the last of the offences to which he pleaded guilty, he had had a blameless life and contributed a great deal to the community in which he lived and worked. There are scores of people who are deeply distressed at this turn of events.”